The first thing Zeke really wanted to do when he made it back home to the Triple E was take Skinny out for as long as possible without hurting his parents feelings after being gone for four and a half years. It was all he could think about on the plane, and after hitting some of the high notes about his magical mystery tour on the drive from the Tulsa airport, he asked if he could take Skinny out for a ride until it was time for supper, which received an affirmative nod of her head from his mother and a grunt from his father.
Being as good of a son as he was, Zeke took the time to take his bags to his room when they arrived home. He even took the time to change into more appropriate clothes, and then he took off at a dead run toward where Skinny would surely be anxiously awaiting him.
Zeke was mistaken. For Skinny was not waiting for him in the corral next to the headquarters stable.
Zeke then went to look for him in the south horse pasture. Nope, the big buckskin was not there, either.
With panic starting to take a serious hold on him, Zeke displayed some of the speed he used to flash on the football field as he headed for the north horse pasture. It was a waste of time and energy. For Skinny appeared to be nowhere to be found.
The thought crossed his mind that maybe one of the ranch hands had taken Skinny out to keep him in top form, but the possibility was summarily dismissed. For Skinny was not just another ranch horse, and with him coming home that day, surely they would have kept Skinny close to the main house.
Another thought that kept popping up was that maybe no mention of his return had been made, but Zeke could not quite wrap his mind around that. Well, he could, but it was going to be a struggle.
The thoughts kept coming, which ignited a raging debate inside of his head. Zeke was not sure of just who he was debating, but as long as he felt like he was holding his own well, he did not care.
Is it really so hard to believe that the memo got lost in shuffle? After all, there is a lot going on around here, and you have been gone a long time.
No, my parents would have been shouting it from the rooftops, and then there is Uncle Willie with an even bigger mouth. Besides, four and a half years is not really such a long time!
Not when you are working your rear-end off while a certain very special someone is off being an international celebrity.
What I was doing was important!
Whatever you say, dear boy.
Zeke finally had to concede that he was not holding his own very well at all, and he slumped against a support bracket in the fencerow. For all of that arguing with himself had left him feeling rather dizzy.
“Are you all right?”
To say that the question startled Zeke is putting it mildly. For it sounded like it had not come from inside of his head. Moreover, the question sounded like it had come from a feminine voice behind him, and he had not heard anyone approach.
When Zeke turned around, he received an even greater shock to his senses. For not only was he looking at the loveliest little filly he had ever laid eyes on, she was sitting real pretty in the saddle upon Skinny!
“I am not sure,” Zeke answered with some hesitation in his voice.
At this point, Skinny let loose with a loud whinny and pawed at the ground with his front hooves. He then let go with an equally loud snort as Zeke reached to stroke his muzzle.
When the girl saw Zeke’s eyes starting to well up with tears, she said, “Oh, you must be Zeke. I am really sorry about not having your horse there to greet you. Mr. MacLister told me that you should be home by five, and I must have lost track of the time.”
Zeke then knew that he had been had. For his flight into Tulsa was due to land at 10 a.m., and it was just a little after 3 p.m. now.
Yep, that sure explained the twinkle in his parents eyes as he left the main house, but he decided to keep his discovery to himself. That is, at least until he could get even.
“Yeah, losing track of time is easy to do around Skinny,” Zeke replied with a smile. “May I ask who you are?”
“Oh, my name is Jenny, Jenny Lea Lewis. We moved here from Cabool, Missouri after your father hired my father to be the ranch veterinarian.”
“Did old Doc Martin finally retire?”
“Yeah, and your father was having a hard time getting along with Dr. Tressler, who took over his veterinary clinic. So, your father decided to find a fulltime vet for the Triple E, and I am sure glad he found my father.”
“So am I,” Zeke said with a grin. “That is, unless you prove to be a fulltime horse thief.”
Jenny let loose with a snort of her own as she started Skinny down the lane at a lope. Half-turning her head back toward Zeke, she hollered, “Skinny thinks that a walk back to the house might help you remember your manners!”
Zeke was experiencing a strange sensation as he watched the dust Skinny stirred up settle back down to the ground. He strongly suspected that it might be love, which was somewhat unsettling. For his plans for success did not include the taking of a wife until well on down the line.
By the time Zeke walked back to the main house, Skinny was nickering at him from the corral next to the headquarters stable and Jenny was nowhere in sight. Since it was just an hour or so before supper was due to be served, he decided forego his ride in favor of giving Skinny a good rub down. He did not get any argument from his old friend about this.
Zeke was pleased to see that Skinny’s stall and water trough were clean, and that he had plenty of fresh hay and grain available. A quick inspection of his hooves showed that he had been recently shod. Not that he had any doubts. For he was not the only one around the Triple E who loved the horse with a passion, but it was still good to see that Skinny had been so well cared for in his absence.
When Zeke headed in to get cleaned up for supper, he saw Uncle Willie’s pickup truck parked in the driveway, and his mind immediately went into overdrive. One would think that Zeke would abandon all hope of getting back at those who had conspired against him. For his parents were always hard enough to spare with, but with Uncle Willie in on a joke, formidable does not even start to describe the kind of front they could form against him. Ah, but the boy had learned some things while away—remember?
Any doubt of the conspiracy was erased as soon as Zeke saw the big grins on all of their faces as soon as he came down from getting cleaned up. When Uncle Willie asked him if he had of enjoyed being in Edinburgh as much as it sounded when he made check-in calls from there, he saw his chance to pounce.
“Yes, I had a great time while there, and I learned a lot, too,” he answered while looking directly at Uncle Willie.
“Oh, and what would that be?”
“Well, I learned why a ship is said to be listing when it is leaning over to one side.”
“It has changed over the years, though. For it started out as MacListering in recognition of many members of the clan starting to lean more and more to one side as they took on more and more whiskey over the course of an evening, but the English shortened it to listing over the years.”
“Bloody English will not give us Scots credit for anything!”
Nope, there would be no victory over his tormenters for Zeke to celebrate that night, and he would soon learn that he was not yet out of the woods by a long shot. For there were Jenny and her parents also sitting at the table with big grins upon their faces. That is, except for Jenny.
No, Jenny did not have a big ol’ possum-eatin’ grin (as they say) upon her face, but she did have a certain look in her eye. You know the one. It was a look of a deep yearning. Some would go as far as to say that it was a look of great hunger, and Zeke suspected that it had nothing to do with the smells coming out of the kitchen.
Whatever kind of look it was, Zeke was finding it quite unnerving. For he had been working down his list with a steely resolve, and here was this little lass threatening to derail his express train to unparalleled success.
Yeah, as the old men spittin’ and whittlin’ down at the feed store would say, it was one of those good problems. For in regards to looks, Jenny displayed every physical attribute that Zeke found extremely attractive in a woman, and she had already shown some indications of having a personality that was even more perfect for his tastes.
Speaking of perfect, the ladies started putting platters full of Zeke’s absolute favorite foods on the table. Although he had acquired quite a taste for different things while away, thinking about his mother’s meals still made his mouth water the most.
Oh, and what a meal she had prepared for him this time. For what lay before him were calf-fries, hickory-smoked beef ribs, boiled crawdads (crayfish), fried morel mushrooms and okra, corn on the cob, mashed potatoes and Triple E beans.
Some considered Triple E beans to be like baked beans while others were more inclined to think of the dish as being like a very mild chili. For the recipe called for pork sausage ground like hamburger and predominately flavored with sage to be fried in a large, deep skillet. Finely chopped onions (preferably red) would be added to the skillet after the sausage started browning and allowed to sauté in the grease until the sausage was completely cooked. Most of the grease would then be poured off, and Van Camp’s pork ‘n’ beans would be mixed with the sausage and onions.
No, it was not a recipe that had been handed down since the beginning of time, but whether poured over hoecakes (cornmeal pancakes) or just eaten by itself, Triple E beans were sure to leave a lasting impression. Speaking of such, Zeke’s mother’s fresh strawberry pie and homemade vanilla ice cream was served for dessert.
Not detracting from the perfection of the meal a bit was Jenny eating with a gusto that even the crustiest of old cowboys would have to appreciate. When Zeke’s father tried to give her a hard time about it, she threatened him with a large beef rib she had already stripped clean of every edible morsel.
When her mother tried to chide Jenny a little bit about being more lady-like, she retorted, “Hey, I worked really hard at helping with this meal, and I ain’t about to let some old goat like him spoil my appetite,” which cracked up everyone at the table. If Zeke had of been looking in a mirror at the time, he might have recognized a certain look in his own eye.
The look in both of their eyes grew more and more pronounced as the days went by. For Zeke and Jenny started spending more and more time together, and it was not long before he started thinking of his plan for success as being their plan.
There was more than just generosity to that. For Jenny proved to be a great contributor—both in style and substance.
It was in regards to Zeke’s Jenny where those contributions were the most clearly obvious early on. For aside from being the inspiration for the name of the place, she was the one who truly made it into a higher-classed honky-tonk.
Yes, I am being serious. For Zeke had been toying with some ideas on how to get more out of the agricultural assets of the ranch, and he had settled upon building a steak house next to the Triple E Arena, which would feature Triple E meats and dairy products, as well as the fruits and vegetables being raised and gathered from the wild on the ranch.
Jenny took Zeke’s idea farther. For instead of just building a steak house next to the arena, she suggested that it might be really cool to actually attach the steak house to the arena, which would allow diners easy access to go in and just look up at stained-glass underneath of the roof when there was not some sort of event being hosted.
Oh, and Jenny was far from being done with the expansion of Zeke’s original idea. Points and counter-points bounced back and forth between them into the wee hours of many a night. When the match was over, Zeke’s steak house had grown into Zeke’s Jenny—complete with a separated old west-style saloon, large dance floor and a stage for bands to provide live music to dance to.
Well, at least on paper all of that was true. For Zeke’s father still had to be convinced.
To date, Zeke’s father had been quite content to keep selling cattle, hogs and chickens through contracted sales with wholesalers and only grow (and gather from the wild) enough fruits and vegetables to provide for his family and the families of all of who worked for the ranch, which was the way the Triple E had been run for generations. So, when Zeke and Jenny approached him with the idea for Zeke’s Jenny, he was not very enthusiastic at first. The enthusiasm of his son and (hopefully) future daughter-in-law won him over, though.
To be quite honest about it, Zeke’s father did not stand a chance. For Jenny had a great amount of tenacity to her spirit, and it was a running joke that she had been perfectly named.
Jenny did not really mind the running joke. For as far as she was concerned, if being as stubborn as a female donkey can be at times helped to achieve her goals, so be it.
Zeke’s mother was very enthusiastic from the get-go. For she always loved entertaining guests at the main house, and she saw where Zeke’s Jenny could be thought of as being just another extension of Erickson hospitality.
Uncle Willie was also quite enthusiastic about the idea for Zeke’s Jenny, and his family even more so. For he had become rather cranky (even for an older Scot) while Zeke was away, which was made worse upon his return when he started spending so much time with Jenny and not so much with him. So, Uncle Willie’s family was thrilled with something that might get the extraordinarily cranky old Scot out of their hair for a while.
Much to the delight of his family, Uncle Willie dove headfirst into the new project, but Zeke’s father still had a few reservations. One of his main concerns was that the Triple E had been operated as a fairly independent business with a very limited number of associates for all of its existence, and he did not like the idea of having to work with unfamiliar suppliers of off-season fruits and vegetables—not to mention beverages (both adult and otherwise) to keep Zeke’s Jenny open year-round.
Again, Jenny came to the rescue with a proposition to only work with family-run operations (instead of corporations) as much as possible, along with making those other families (along with necessary corporate contacts) be like a member of the Triple E family when it felt right. Zeke’s father loved the proposition, and he hoped more than ever that his son would make Jenny an actual member of the Erickson family much sooner than later.
Zeke’s father (and mother) did not have to wait long before their hopes were fulfilled. For the event held in the Triple E Arena on the night before the grand opening of Zeke’s Jenny was the wedding of Zeke and Jenny.
Oh my, and what an event it was. For almost everyone Zeke and Jenny had any dealings with on the Zeke’s Jenny project just had to be in attendance, which added up to several thousand (counting their families) at one of the most delightful weddings ever held.
As Kenny Rogers started singing his Love Will Turn You Around, Zeke entered the arena mounted on Skinny riding beside Uncle Willie, who was mounted on his favorite appaloosa, Flathead, at the head of a grand procession in the form of an upside-down V or arrowhead. They were immediately flanked by his father and the head foreman of the Triple E, who were flanked by three groomsmen on each side.
Charlie Daniels and his band had served as the backup band for Kenny Rogers, and as soon as he finished singing his song, they took off with great flair on the traditional wedding procession march. Jenny entered the arena mounted on her magnificent palomino mare, Sassy, riding beside her father, who was mounted on his equally impressive paint stallion, Prancer. They were immediately flanked by her mother and Zeke’s mother, who were flanked by three bridesmaids on each side.
After all of the other riders had taken up their final positions, Jenny and Zeke’s mothers rode back to the middle of the arena and held a position sitting side by side upon their horses and facing the front. Rumors flew afterward that they wanted to make sure of there not being any sort of runaway bride or groom situation after all of the work they had put into making the wedding happen—much to their mutual delight.
The reception was held in Zeke’s Jenny and spilled over into the arena. The food served was straight off of the menu in place for the grand opening—complete with a food bar holding an abundance of appetizers, soups, salads, side dishes and desserts, with entrees being made to order.
Two of the items on the food bar were alligator nuggets and boudin hush puppies. The alligator meat for the nuggets and boudin sausage for the hush puppies were supplied by Mo (Maurice) Beauregard from down Lousiana way. Mo also was also a source for calf fries, frog legs, crawdads (crayfish) morel mushrooms and poke sallet, but most of the amounts for those items came from much more local sources.
Needless to say, the reception served as a good test by fire (arguably both literally and figuratively) for the kitchen and wait staff. For if they could handle over 5,000 guests on a given night, there was surely not much that they could not handle.
In anticipation of extraordinarily large crowds from time to time, a side building with additional meat smokers, stoves and ovens had been constructed. This was another one of Jenny’s brilliant ideas, which included the manning of those additional meat smokers, stoves and ovens coming from regular Triple E hands. I do not know if her vision included the sound of jingle-bobs on spurs adding all the more to the wonder of it all, but it most definitely did.
Entrees on the menu were smoked beef and pork ribs, smoked beef brisket, pork shoulder and goat rump, along with regular roast beef, pork, lamb and goat. There were also beef steaks and pork chops served in several different ways. Fish were well represented with bass, bluegill perch, catfish, crappie and trout being served fried or baked. Last, but certainly not least were a number of chicken dishes, as well as the best hamburgers imaginable.
Speaking of sandwiches, all of the meats were also available in either a sandwich or tortilla-wrap form. That is, except for the frog legs. Uncle Willie tried to come up with something, but nothing seemed to really work without it being more trouble than it would have been worth to deal with.
Kenny Rogers (accompanied by his own backup band) sang from the Zeke’s Jenny stage while the guests ate and ate. Charlie Daniels and his band then took the stage in the arena, and a light show of his songs left all in attendance breathless—especially when a steam locomotive circled the arena as he played the Orange Blossom Special. Tears could be seen streaming down many a face when scenes from his Still in Saigon hit very close to home, and when he followed the song with his In America, many of those very same people stood up and cheered wildly.
To accomplish the light show, a rotating panoramic projector was hung high overhead in the center of the arena. Back lighting on the walls and laser-like beams from different angles combined with the projected images to form a holographic effect that was simply stunning.
The reception concert lasted until the wee hours of the night, and when the lights went down low, Zeke and Jenny took off on their honeymoon, which promised to be quite an adventure for them both. For aside from driving to and from the great state of Washington, they would take a cruise ship up to Alaska and come back down on a train ride along almost the entire length of the Canadian Rockies.
They took their time on the way to Seattle. For both Zeke and Jenny wanted to check out prospective suppliers for Zeke’s Jenny, as well as fresh bloodlines to add to the Triple E’s cattle and horse herds.
While in Alaska, they visited the historic gold fields, but it was the southern forests and wildlife that obviously held the most appeal. For both Zeke and Jenny marveled at the effect the area had upon them—even after spending so much of their lives in the outdoors.
The train ride through the Canadian Rockies had the same effect upon them. For they were both like wide-eyed school children looking out of the windows of the train.
As with the drive up to Seattle, Zeke and Jenny took their time on the drive back to the Triple E. Since they had taken a more southern route meandering through Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, California, and Oregon on the way up, they took a more northern route on the way back, which took them meandering through Idaho, Utah, Wyoming, Montana, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas and Missouri.
While in Missouri, Jenny wanted to go visit some of her old haunts around Cabool, and Zeke was very happy to tag along. While sitting in a nice restaurant that was once a log cabin just to the north of Mountain Grove, which is a town ten miles west of Cabool, they overheard a couple sitting in the next booth talking about what a nice place it was. Much to their surprise, they also heard the lady in the next booth say that it was nothing in comparison to Zeke’s Jenny down in Springdale, Arkansas, which her male companion enthusiastically agreed with.
Not that Zeke and Jenny had entertained any serious doubts concerning what a wonder their establishment would be, it was still so very nice to hear such praise coming from people living over 100 miles away. When they heard the gentleman in the next booth add that he sure wished there was one much closer to home, it started the wheels in their heads to turning.
By the time they pulled up to the main house of the Triple E the next day, Zeke and Jenny already had a plan to franchise Zeke’s Jenny almost completely worked out in their heads, and when they told about it over supper, Zeke’s father and mother, Jenny’s father and mother, as well as Uncle Willie and his wife all looked at each other with big grins on their faces. For while Zeke and Jenny had been gone on their two month-long honeymoon, news about Zeke’s Jenny had spread like a wildfire being pushed by high winds across the prairie, and they had been inundated with requests to open at least one Zeke’s Jenny in Little Rock, Memphis, Vicksburg, New Orleans, Albuquerque, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, Reno, Salt Lake City, Boise, Billings, Cheyenne, Denver, Omaha, Minneapolis, Davenport, Kansas City, Oklahoma City and dozens of other locations from sea to shining sea. Just from Texas alone, Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, Amarillo and Dallas had sent officials literally begging for at least a Zeke’s Jenny to be opened, with many of them also wanting a Triple E Arena just like the original one built right alongside. Hey, even the mayor of New York City had paid a visit one evening, and he swore that his town had to have at least two of each after finishing off an entire fresh strawberry pie while listening to the Marshall Tucker Band make him wish he was from South Carolina.
In regards to the original Zeke’s Jenny, it had seen a full house each and every night it had been open. Some Washington County officials had previously expressed concerns over such large crowds possibly becoming too rowdy to peacefully handle as they tanked up on adult beverages until closing time, but as Jenny had promised them, making patrons feel like they were part of the family instead of just another face in the crowd made for a better time to be had by all. For a family member is much less likely to act up in a public setting when it started looking like push might lead to more than a shove (especially with another family member) than a stranger would.
All who wanted to keep their distance were still welcome, but they were very closely watched. When one acted like he (or she) might be up to no good, they were taken to have a little talk with Uncle Willie about the proper way to conduct oneself in a drinking establishment. Usually by the third account of his personal experiences in Edinburgh taverns, most were very ashamed of their actions and desperately wanting to be adopted.
In the same spirit, the key element to the franchise plan was to only do business with those who would think of their patrons as being members of their extended family instead of just customers. In order to better insure success with that, Zeke and Jenny sought to get to really know applicants and their area. For what may look really good on an application does always appear the same in person, and this applies as much to places as people.
The franchise plan was an exceptionally good deal for both the Ericksons and franchise owners. For all of the start-up expenses (including land and construction costs) would be financed by the Ericksons at a zero percent interest rate. This allowed the Ericksons to maintain control over quality and make a little money off of the building materials and food items they provided, which were still priced substantially less than what comparable products could be purchased for on the open market. The franchise owners were free to hire whoever they wanted, but their employees were expected to uphold the standards set by the Springdale staff.
With the couple in Mountain Grove also clearly in mind, the first franchise went to Jenny’s best friend (and her husband) in Cabool. The Zeke’s Jenny would be built on the south side of town (along with a Triple E Arena and a 500-room motel) within clear sight of travelers on U.S. 60, which was a major east-west corridor across southern Missouri.
Zeke had to stifle an urge to cut loose with a genuine belly laugh when a thought about him actually becoming an educated idiot crossed his mind. For Cabool really was out in the proverbial middle of nowhere in comparison to even the Springdale location, which was nothing in comparison to major metropolitan areas like Kansas City and Little Rock—let alone New York City. So, how could someone with a doctorate in business administration from the University of Arkansas and a doctorate in Economics from the London School of Economics and Political Science expect the Cabool location to average more than fifty patrons a night?
Ah, but Zeke and Jenny believed that the quality of the food alone would attract enough travelers on U.S. 60 to make the location profitable. Major events would draw people from around Rolla, Springfield and West Plains on a regular basis, and offering rooms at the motel for $20 a night would encourage many to stick around and thoroughly enjoy themselves for a while.
Besides, wind turbines and solar panels were included in the deal. So, the electric bill would not be much, and with a good staff in place to help keep other daily operating expenses tightly under control, there was no way the Cabool location could not be profitable. Hey, even if the franchise owners discovered that managing the business was not what they thought it would be, the Ericksons would take over and run it until a new franchise owner was found.
Exactly two years after Zeke and Jenny made it back home from their honeymoon, the jenny on the huge neon sign facing U.S. 60 started kicking up her heels for the first official time. A hearty cheer erupted from the crowd of 6,000 waiting for the doors to the Cabool Triple E Arena to open for business. Quite a few in the crowd had been camped out in the parking lot for two days—much to the delight of some city officials and the dismay of others.
When it became clear that a very great many would be there for the grand opening, it was decided that it would be better to funnel them through the arena at first. For this would at least give them a place to comfortably sit and be entertained by holographic light-shows set to the music of various artists while waiting to be seated in Zeke’s Jenny, and very few seemed to mind.
All in all, the grand opening of the Cabool location was a phenomenal success. The new franchise owners were certainly excited, as were the Ericksons and all of their other associates. Although, Ethan and Scrawny acted like it was just another day for play.
Oh, did I fail to mention that Jenny gave birth to Ethan Erasmus Erickson nine months after she and Zeke came home from their honeymoon? Yes, I believe I did, and I am really sorry about that. Come to think of it, I also failed to mention that Skinny and Sassy hooked up while their beloved masters were away, and Jenny’s magnificent palomino mare gave birth to Scrawny two months after Ethan was born.
Both of the youngsters hit the ground running from the start. Well, it was more like vigorously rolling back and forth in Ethan’s case, but by the time he was six months old, he was getting around better than most two year-old toddlers do.
It was obvious that Ethan and Scrawny fell for each other as hard as their fathers did. For it was Ethan squealing with delight before Scrawny would start kicking up his heels and prancing around on some days, and on others, it would be Scrawny initiating the routine. I suppose it all depended upon who saw who first.
Both Zeke and Jenny adamantly objected to Ethan receiving any extraordinarily special attention, but they were politely told to just sit down and shut up on more than one occasion, with the opposition having the numbers to fiercely defend their position. For not only were Ethan’s grandparents on both sides strongly united in their desire to spoil the kid rotten for at least the time being, they were staunchly supported by Uncle Willie and his family, as well as all of the Triple E and Zeke’s Jenny hands.
Oh, and Scrawny had it pretty good, as well. For with him being destined to be Ethan’s horse, he received extraordinarily special care from everyone on the ranch, but unlike Zeke and Jenny, Skinny and Sassy raised no objections.
With them being so vastly outnumbered, Zeke and Jenny figured that the only way they could possibly win in the end was to divide their opposition’s attention by having more children. They were mistaken. For when Jenny gave birth to Vicki Lynn and Amanda Marie six months after the Cabool grand opening, the same amount of extraordinarily special attention was heaped upon the twins while not shorting their older brother a bit.
Yeah, Zeke and Jenny’s objections were raised in jest. For they knew that their parents wanted their grandchildren raised in the same way they had raised them, which was absolutely wonderfully by any natural standard I can think of.
Furthermore, all of the attention their youngsters were receiving from others allowed Zeke and Jenny to focus more attention upon putting all of the pieces together to allow for an expansion of the franchise business. For the list of applicants kept growing, and an efficient distribution system needed to be implemented before construction on farther away locations could begin.
The system in mind would have a separate warehouse for each location. All had been going well with the Cabool location being supplied out of the warehouse built on Triple E land near the Springdale location, but it would be better for Cabool to have their own warehouse. Moreover, with it thought to be good to allow for more local dishes to be added to the menu at different locations, it did not make sense to be hauling the ingredients for those more local dishes back and forth when they were coming from near where they were going to be served to begin with.
In regards to hauling ingredients, the Triple E would be supplying all of the beef, pork and chicken for each location. So, trucks and drivers would be added to the Triple E fleet as the need arose, and this precipitated the need for dispatchers handling backhauls heading back in the direction of Springdale as much as possible.
Those backhauls would greatly defray transportation expenses, but the priority was on getting the driver back home as quickly as possible to keep them as happy as possible. For happy drivers are generally better drivers in every respect, and Triple E drivers were considered to be among the best out on the road by their peers.
When the time to celebrate the fifteenth anniversary of the Cabool location grand opening rolled around, there was at least a Zeke’s Jenny at locations from Seattle in Washington to Fort Lauderdale in Florida, Bangor in Maine to Ontario in California. Sixty in total, with plans for locations in Hawaii, Alaska, Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, Denmark, Holland, Belgium, France, Germany, Russia and several other European countries on the table.
The distribution system had also greatly expanded. For there were now several regional warehouses in place with their own assigned trucks and drivers to take supplies to the location warehouses, which greatly simplified the logistics involved and made for even more very happy truck drivers.
The suppliers of the ingredients those very happy truck drivers were hauling were also very happy. For not only were they receiving top dollar for their products, Zeke and Jenny formed a co-op after the franchise program started growing exponentially that gave them a share of the profits from the all of the locations.
Once a year, a reunion of sorts for franchise owners, suppliers and their respective families was held at the grand lodge on top of Boston Mountain that Zeke helped to design and build while under the tutelage of Uncle Willie years before. Construction for the purpose of greatly expanding the size of the lodge was well underway.
There had been no additions to Zeke and Jenny’s immediate family after the twins were born, but Ethan, Vicki and Amanda kept their parent’s and grandparent’s well satisfied. Skinny and Sassy did have three more foals and two fillies, which they both took well in stride.
With everything going so well on the home front, Jenny encouraged Zeke to take the next step toward fulfilling his destiny. Not that she was looking forward to living in Little Rock for a few years, but Jenny recognized how much more good she and her husband could do for the state of Arkansas in the beginning and much farther beyond later on.
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