It was almost as if Grandpa Jeremiah had been preparing to be Zeke’s primary teacher his entire life, with his time at the Triple-E being a big part of it. For he and Sophia had traveled extensively throughout the Ozarks and observed the ways things were done before the industrial age, which Grandpa Jeremiah incorporated into an educational curriculum that challenged both the student and the teacher.
Grandpa Jeremiah saw no substitute for actual experience with the application of what was taught in a classroom, and Zeke’s parents were delighted with his approach. As was Zeke, and he soaked up knowledge like a sponge while displaying an extremely high degree of understanding before moving onto a different subject.
Zeke learned how to write from reading the efforts of others, but this included more than just understanding what was meant to be conveyed. For sentences were broken down into their basic elements and rewritten in different ways to explore more than one way of writing something.
Grandpa Jeremiah used the same basic approach to mathematics until Zeke’s knowledge and understanding became vastly superior to his own. Then it was the student’s turn to become the teacher, and the respect held for each other grew by leaps and bounds.
Zeke already had an enormous head start when it came to biology from his work on the ranch, but Grandpa Jeremiah helped him connect the scientific terms to his experiences. Next was the study of chemistry and physics, which had practical applications in a number of different fields, with not the least of these being food preparation.
No, Zeke’s mother and grandmother did not know much about chemistry or physics, but they both knew how to cook very well. When Zeke delved into why certain food combinations tasted so good and what other possibilities there might be, the smells coming out of the main kitchen were beyond tantalizing. Grandpa Jeremiah tried to take credit for the new recipes, but a few choice words whispered into his good ear by Grandma Sophia had him stomping off without offering a retort.
As Zeke’s education continued, Grandpa Jeremiah had him out there 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 while weighing a rock solid 220 pounds of sculpted muscle.
Curiously, Zeke quit growing after that. He was big enough, nonetheless.
When it came to archaeological sites, Zeke and Grandpa Jeremiah did not have to travel far. For aside from several Civil War engagements of various sizes being fought 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 sixty miles to the west of where the main house now was. Since the fort was on the Oklahoma side of the border, the Ericksons 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 Grandpa Jeremiah literally jumping for joy over the discoveries made the experience even more of a thrill for Zeke to cherish.
Grandpa Jeremiah also took Zeke on several visits to historic sites all over Europe, with Scotland being frequented 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 on 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 concentration camps had been located in Poland and Germany.
Aside from the cultural and historical significance, Grandpa Jeremiah 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, including even the ruined ones, came in a close second behind the cathedrals.
No, Grandpa Jeremiah 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 an opportunity for practical applications of his studies in all sorts of arts and sciences—including even political science.
The area was to be constructed on 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 was placed on top of the one made into solar panels, and a layer of colored acrylic glass 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 visit the Triple-E Arena at least once a year just to look up at the 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 year-round purpose of entertaining business associates, as well as the friends and families of Triple-E employees. 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 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, Grandpa Jeremiah 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 rspecially 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 on 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 Zeke making a perfect score on both the SAT and ACT, as well as 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 complete most of his more formal education beforehand. So, he asked Grandpa Jeremiah 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, which was 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 biding 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 three 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 his academic prowess around Fayetteville. For on the very first day of an 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 yards 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 humbled the proud University of Texas 42-0 on their home field 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 547 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.
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 quite offensive with a bat in his hands.
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 317 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.
As it was with the University of Arkansas, Zeke’s attendance of Oxford University and the London School of Economics and Political Science was more about the experience than anything else. For he already knew everything they had to teach from a book in a classroom, as well as being acutely familiar with the subject matter of the professors’ lectures. In fact, he often spent more time behind the podium than sitting in the audience during a lecture, but he found walking the same halls as the likes of T.E. Lawrence, Aldous Huxley, William Fulbright, C.S. Lewis, Edmund Halley, William Penn, Christopher Wren, J.R.R. Tolkien and John Locke quite intoxicating.
In honor of his Grandpa Jeremiah, Zeke also attended some classes at the University of Edinburgh, which had quite a history of its own—as did his Grandpa Jeremiah. This is what Zeke really wanted to learn, and after hearing story after story in several local taverns about Grandpa Jeremiah’s legendary efforts to keep the spirit of a true Scotsman alive during his time at the University of Edinburgh as both a student and a member of the faculty, Zeke felt like he had gathered plenty of ammunition to fire back at the old Scot the next time he went to take another shot at him.
Zeke also revisited many of the places Grandpa Jeremiah had taken him to years before in England, Scotland and Wales, but he spent more time simply getting to know the local people and truly savoring their culture. In the spirit of full disclosure, Zeke may have overdone it a time or two while trying to dig up more dirt on the old Scot, but he would never admit it.
Oh no, the Emerald Isle was certainly not ignored, and it was in a quaint little Limerick pub down on the banks of the River Shannon where Zeke was invited to go on one of his most memorable adventures. For a group of scholars and scientists from several different countries were reaching the final stages of their construction of an exact replica of a Viking longboat they were planning on sailing to Iceland as a reenactment of a possible ancient voyage, complete with period clothes, equipment and foodstuffs.
Aside from the thrill of participating in such an adventure, the reenactment voyage had another appeal to Zeke. For he had entertained some thoughts over the years about possibly being a direct descendant of Erik the Red, whose son, Leif, is said by a number of historians to be the real European discoverer of America some 500 years before Christopher Columbus.
While in Iceland, Zeke also made a fairly monumental discovery of his own. For he found out just how exceedingly warm some Icelandic women can be.
Well, at least it was an experience that made a lasting impression on him. In fact, it came as quite a shock. For Zeke had never given sex much thought before—not even when many a fair maiden was using everything she had at her disposal to catch his eye back in Fayetteville.
So, where to go next? That would be Russia, of course. For Zeke liked to think that he was on his own magical mystery tour, and he had a personal invitation to visit the motherland from the son of a prominent Soviet official, who had become fast friends with Zeke during the Viking reenactment voyage.
Come on now, get your mind out of the gutter. For Zeke was not looking for more cultural exchanges with the lights down low while in Russia, but he did participate in several very spirited debates with several members of the Politburo over what was good and bad about both capitalism and socialism.
Time was also made for sightseeing, and Zeke was especially impressed with Leningrad/St. Petersburg. When asked if he would like to go on a train ride through the great forests in Siberia, Zeke said that he would love to. Almost as an afterthought, Zeke mentioned that he hoped the train ride out of Moscow was not meant to also be an exact reenactment of the trip the Romanovs took in 1917, with him playing the part of Nicholas, the Second.
Everyone within earshot laughed uproariously at the joke—including Zeke. For his hosts displayed a very deft touch with humor by not saying a word and maintaining very serious looks on their faces before erupting in laughter a few seconds later.
In all seriousness, Zeke loved going on that train ride, and he came to the conclusion that taking a train as much as possible would be a great way for him to continue on his magical mystery tour. So, when it came time to leave Russia, Zeke booked passage on a train bound for Prague, Czechoslovakia. An added bonus was that his travels through the rest of the Eastern Bloc was made considerably more enjoyable with the credentials issued to him by his new friends in the Kremlin, which made crossing borders behind the Iron Curtain a breeze.
It was a different story when he went to enter Italy, however. For the State Department of the good ol’ U.S. of A. was very curious about why Zeke was treated so well by the Soviets, and it was not until the CIA agents sent to interrogate him were convinced that he had not been turned into a KG.B operative that he was allowed to go on his merry way.
Zeke kept crossing borders until he had actually set foot in every country in Europe. More than that, he had walked along paths that Socrates, Plato, Julius Caesar, Cicero, Charlemagne, Joan of Arc, Nostradamus, Martin Luther, William the Conqueror, Sigmund Freud, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt van Rijn, Napoleon and host of celebrated others had followed over the ages. Next stop: Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Cambridge, Massachusetts? Well, that is where the actual Harvard and MIT are located, and Harvard had insisted on him having to attend at least one year at their law school before they would issue the diploma he had already passed all of the required tests to receive.
As with the other schools, Zeke did not mind having to actually attend a few classes—especially not at Harvard. For he spent most of his time there debating everything from basic civil rights to the benefits to expanding the role of the military in American society with some of the finest budding legal minds anywhere.
Some of those minds belonged to the sons and daughters of career bureaucrats in Washington, DC, and they helped Zeke gain more insight into just what was wrong with the federal government. Not that this was their intent, of course. For most of them were looking forward to continuing in the very same footsteps as their parents, both in regards to their career path and the way they were doing their jobs.
There were also many sons and daughters of celebrated capitalists at Harvard, and several heated debates erupted over just how damaging, both economically and socially, unbridled capitalism can be to a society. For most of them were quite devout in believing that it is perfectly natural for the cream to rise to the top, and that business markets had to be kept as free as possible from government intervention in any form in order to truly flourish for the overall good of society while Zeke argued otherwise to a certain extent.
These were repeats of the same basic debates Zeke had participated in while at both Oxford and the London School of Economics and Political Science, but there was some difference. For Zeke did not find himself quite so outnumbered in England. Nonetheless, he thoroughly enjoyed participating in the Harvard debates—despite being quite disturbed by how many could be so detached from the realities to the practical applications of their theoretical arguments.
Zeke did not disagree with business markets needing to be free in order to truly flourish, but he contended that measures should be implemented by the government when the gap between the haves and have-nots starts to become too wide and businesses should welcome them. For revolutions erupt when the poor become tired enough of being trodden upon by the rich, which is generally not good for business. Moreover, it is even better for business in the long run when there are a great abundance of people well able to actually purchase goods and services.
Another series of debates that Zeke found both exhilarating and disturbing was over government immigration policies. For Zeke wanted to welcome in all who truly wanted to become Americans, including learning English to the fullest extent possible, while some only wanted the best from other countries to be allowed in and others did not see anything wrong with turning a blind eye toward the border(s) when cheap labor was needed to keep agricultural prices down.
Zeke’s time at MIT was not so contentious, but he considered it to be every bit as intriguing. For he was fascinated with what he had been hearing about something called the world wide web, and he wanted to learn everything he could about technological developments that could make a world-class education available to anyone with access to a computer and an internet connection.
Zeke was also very interested in learning about theoretical advancements in battery designs that could make electric-powered vehicles much more a matter of reality than science fiction. For he had been entertaining some ideas on the subject for quite some time, and many at MIT became very excited over where Zeke’s ideas could lead.
Many began to wonder if Zeke might have become an educated idiot after he left the halls of academia and accepted a commission as a captain in the Army National Guard. For it looked like a step in the wrong direction for someone with no less than five doctoral degrees from some of the most highly respected institutions of higher learning in this world, but joining the military was actually another integral part of his plan. For aside from other very important considerations, he recognized that military service greatly enhances a candidate’s résumé—especially one who wanted to greatly expand the domestic role of the military for the benefit of all citizens.
The Army offered Zeke a duty-posting in the Pentagon, but he wanted to pay homage to his father and Grandpa Jeremiah by serving as an infantry officer. Both of them were starting to wonder if their very special boy might be overreaching. For the Army was not requiring Zeke to complete any field training, but he wanted to do it the hard way, which his father and Grandpa Jeremiah were all too painfully aware of just how hard that could be.
Undaunted by their concerns, Zeke went ahead with his plan. So, after basic and AIT (Advanced Individual Training) it was off to jump school and then ranger training. By the time Zeke was finished with becoming all that he could be in the Army, he had been promoted to major and a green beret was added to his uniform as a member of the Nineteenth Special Forces Group.
Zeke only served two years on active duty, but he was able to receive something that he coveted most of all. For as part of a unit helping to train soldiers to defend their freely-elected leaders in an African nation, he participated in enough action to earn the Combat Infantryman Badge.