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Old Juan

by SeaBird

Chapter 3 - Moralis Boy's Home

Juan sat in his chair, thinking about what his brother-in-law, John, had said, "COLLECTING BOYS".

Why not, he reasoned, he had the funds, he had the land and he certainly had the time! He picked up the phone and called John, "John, do you think I could?"

John replied, "Could what?"

Juan continued, "Do you think I could start a Boy's Home here?"

John thought for a moment and then said, "Yeah, you could, but are you willing to fight the state for it and all the BS they will put you through?"

Juan replied, "Why not, they can't hurt me any more than 'Nam did! DO IT! Get the paperwork started, do whatever you have to do so I can help boys that have been hurt, thrown away or tossed in the gutter!"

It would be a year before they gained approval and, had it not been for the support of Superior Court Judge Alfredo Sanchez, it might have been even longer.

In the meantime, Juan called in a contractor and had two more bedrooms built on the old farmhouse.

Juan registered Phillip at the Elementary School and, as soon as Jason graduated to a walking cast, he registered him as a sophomore at the High School with Bobby and Roger.

The Carson brothers were convicted of felony child molestation, child abuse and criminal negligence towards a minor. The temporary custody order was changed to permanent and Juan was awarded custody of both boys.

For the first time since he and Anita had been children, Juan's old farmhouse rang with the sound of happy children!

Just before school let out for the summer, the High School JROTC held a promotion ceremony for the cadets. It was a proud Juan who watched Jason promoted to Cadet First Sergeant, Bobby to Cadet Second Lieutenant and Roger to Cadet Master Sergeant!

Phillip told Juan that as soon as he was in High School he WAS going to be a JROTC Cadet like his big brothers!

Juan could not have been more proud if they had all been his blood children! He took them all out to lunch at the Cattleman's Club up in Silver City.

The boys were still in their uniforms and attracted a lot of attention from the other patrons, Juan beamed when he introduced them as HIS SONS!

As they returned home, they spotted Bill Cochran's car in the drive. Bill was standing on the porch waiting for them, seeing the boys all in their uniforms, he said, "Hmmm, Moralis Standing Army!" Juan laughed and said, "Don't try to start any wars here! Come on in, I'll fix some coffee."

Juan and Bill were drinking their coffee when Bill said, "Juan, the assays proved out even richer than we thought, we have a 10% ore body! We plan to open the pit and start hauling ore as soon as possible. Kennecott has contracted for 100% of our production, we can't be sure yet, but we are guessing that your 20% will amount to about $10,000,000 a year and we calculate there is 20 year's ore in the ground!"

Juan was staggered and had to sit down.

Bill continued, "If it is OK with you, we will write the production contract for monthly payments to you, probably starting in September of this year."

Poor Juan's eyes were glazed and finally he said, "Bill, you have jampacked me. It is a good thing all my teeth are my own! Of course, I need to talk with John Peters, but, YEAH!"

Bill continued, "Rumor has it that you have added two more boys to this circus!"

Juan replied, "Yeah and now I see my way to make it even more – MORALIS BOY'S HOME will be a reality!"

It was a damp eyed Juan who hugged Bill Cochran as he left the house. The boys had been eavesdropping, they ran into the living room and hugged Juan; he wrapped his arms around the whole bunch and just cried, his dream of helping boys would become a real now!

Juan purchased two more ponies, one for Jason and the other for Phillip. The boys' favorite activity that summer was to take a picnic lunch and ride their horse's to the top of the rise overlooking the new open pit mine to watch the heavy equipment remove the overburden to expose the ore.

The four older boys formed and unbreakable bond that would last their lifetimes and their protection of their baby brother, James, was something fierce to behold!

Juanito and Carlos, Juan's two nephews became part of the Moralis Horde and they, also, became JROTC Cadets when school resumed in the fall.

With John's help, Juan formed the Moralis Foundation Corporation and he assigned all but $250,000 a year to the Foundation.

In September, as Bill Cochran had promised, monthly payments of about $1,750,000 started and were paid to The Moralis Foundation Corporation.

Juan contracted with a firm out of Las Cruces to build a two story boy's home. It was to have bedrooms for each two boys and a small apartment on each floor for an adult mentor.

Juan purchased land well away from the mine to place the building, there was sufficient space for an elementary school, should the need arise.

Bobby and Jason suggested a campground that could be used by the boys and also for the High School JROTC. Juan thought that was a great idea and had the plans incorporated into the Boy's Home project.

Juan became the CEO of Moralis Boy's Home Foundation Corporation and he Appointed John Peters as Legal Counsel.

Unknown to the boys, Bobby, Roger, Jason, Juanito and Carlos were all named to the Board of Directors.

The License from the state arrived shortly before the construction was complete, a grand opening celebration was held in November.

The JROTC Drill Team and Standard Bearers, under the command of Cadet Bobby Moralis opened the gates for visitors.

His brothers, Jason Carson, Juanito Peters and Carlos Peters served as tour guides. Phillip Carson looked on with envy until Juan took him by the hand as he led visitors through the new facility.

Judge Sanchez was among the first visitors to be shown around, he looked down at Phillip and said, "Next year, for you, son!"

Phillip beamed and said in his very best military voice, "Sir, yes sir!"

Judge Sanchez chuckled and turned to Juan, "You have a little general there, Juan!"

The Judge could not know how prophetic his words were!

Juan was happy at how everything was coming together, but, at night he still yearned for his son, Danny. He kept the detective agency on the case, but his hopes were rapidly diminishing.

Juan put out the word that Moralis Boy's Home would accept boys who were "problems" elsewhere.

His first hires were two brothers, Albert and Raymond Corrigan. When he was interviewing them he asked them all the standard questions and then threw them a "stun" question, "Is there ANYTHING about either of you that would prevent you from working with troubled young boys or even gay boys?"

Albert looked down at his feet and stammered, "I am gay."

Juan replied, I didn't ask about your preferences, just what you can do to help troubled or gay boys."

Albert stammered, "You mean my being gay doesn't matter?"

Juan said, "Why should it matter? If that is all you have, can you both start this afternoon?"

The two brothers were still putting their clothes away when a State Department of Corrections van drove up to the front door.

A Corrections Officer and a woman in a business suit got out and went into the office.

Juan had not yet hired a manager, so he was manning the office. He said, "Can I help you?" The lady said, I am Amelia Carelton from New Mexico State CPS, I called you yesterday about three boys that have been locked up at the Juvenile Prison because there was no other place for them."

Juan replied, "Of course Mrs. Carelton, we have rooms for them ready, may I meet them please?"

The officer brought in three very frightened boys in hand cuffs.

Juan went ballistic, "How DARE you bring boys chained together like criminals!

Take those off now or I will have the local Sheriff lock you BOTH up!"

As soon as the boys were unlocked, Juan put his arms around the three of them and led them away, leaving the two state officials to cool their heels in the lobby.

He was so angry, he could hardly speak. He phoned up to the Corrigan Brothers' room and asked them to come down to Admitting right away.

As soon as they got there, out of breath because they run down the stairwell, Juan put the three boys in their care and he went stomping back out to the front lobby.

He was still angry enough to set the carpeting on fire as he told them that if they ever brought boys to him like that, he would raise the roof from here to the state capitol and back!

He then signed their paperwork and sent them on their away.

He immediately went back to where the boys were and sat down with them.

The three, Johnny Mears, Ralph Babbin and Mike Kerns, all 14 years old and so frightened their knees were shaking.

The three adults each held a boy and Juan, who had finally calmed himself down, told them that, for now, they were going to be all in one bedroom but as soon as some more boys came, all bedrooms would hold just two boys each.

Mike Kearns spoke up, "Sir, you mean we will have a bedroom just our own?"

Juan looked at them and said, "Boys, this is a home, NOT a prison. Yes you will have a room and things of your very own. You will be expected to keep your room fairly neat and kind of clean but this is also NOT the military. I have sons, I know what goes on, we are not going to worry about a dirty sock on the floor or a toothbrush hanging crooked!"

The three boys looked at each other and began to sob, they hung onto Juan like he was a life raft. Perhaps, in a way, he was.

Before the month was out, eighteen boys were living at the Moralis Boy's Home. Both the Elementary and High Schools were getting worried about having sufficient classroom space. When they heard that, Juan had the contractor make up a set of plans for an Elementary School on the Home grounds, the School Board became excited and asked Juan to meet with them.

When he presented the plans to the school Board and told them he would build the school, they were delighted and willing to cooperate on teaching staff.

The next week, the contractor started construction.

Juan finally found the man he was looking for to be the administrator. He had gone back to the VA Hospital in Tucson for his checkup and was talking to a man in the waiting room. He was a Navy Veteran who had been involved in a shipboard fire. He had been a Lieutenant Commander and the fire had so severely burned him that he had to have both legs amputated just below the knees. He was currently confined to a wheel chair, but they were working with a firm in Dallas that thought they could equip him with a new style articulating prosthesis that would allow him to walk!

The man was excited about the prospect and told Juan that he had a degree in Elementary Education from Duke University. He wanted to ask his girl friend to marry him, but felt he needed job before asking her.

Juan gave the man his card and asked him to come see him. If he needed help or transportation, give him a call and he would come get him.

The man asked Juan if he should wait for the prosthesis' and Juan said no, come anytime you are ready.

Juan had been back home only a couple of days when the phone rang. When he answered, it was the Lieutenant Commander, "Mr. Moralis, I am here in Hurley, my Dad drove me over from Tucson this morning."

Juan replied, "Well, come on, I will wait here at the Home for you." When they arrived, Juan met them and wheeled the man, Dennis Kaufmann, inside, telling the Father he could wander the grounds and speak to anyone he wished.

Juan showed Dennis all over, even taking him upstairs on the new elevator, to see the boys' rooms and recreation area.

Dennis was very impressed and said to himself, "If there is any way, I am going to be part of this! I'll do anything Mr. Moralis asks of me to get this position!"

When they returned to Juan's office, Juan asked, "Do you have any questions?"

Dennis replied, "Where would be a good place for me to live?"

Juan pointed out the window, where carpenters were putting the finishing touches on a new house, "That is the Administrator's Home."He continued, "When can you start?"

Dennis looked him straight in the eyes and said, "Yesterday!"

They met Dennis' father in the driveway and his father said, "Dennis if you don't take this position, I WILL!"

Dennis laughed and said, "Sorry dad, the job's mine!"

Juan spoke up and asked him, "What kind of work do you do?"

Mr. Kaufmann said, "I am a retired Elementary School Principal."

Juan said, "Hm, you see that new building over there?" He pointed to some new construction away a bit from the Home.

Mr. Kaufmann said, "It kinda looks like a school!"

Juan replied, "It is an Elementary School and it needs a principal, interested?"

The man said, excitedly, "You bet I am!"

After some negotiations Dennis Kaufmann, Sr. was hired as Moralis Elementary School Principal. Since he was widowed, he decided to live with his son in the Administrator's House.

They both started work the next week.

Summer was fast approaching and Bobby brought home the information that Major Davis, the JROTC instructor would like to meet with him. Juan called him at the school and made an appointment to meet with him the next day.

All the boys had lots of homework, they were all cramming for finals.

The ponies were grumbling around in the corral, wondering where their boys were and the boys were as jumpy as a dog in a flea market!

Juan took the high school boys to school as he was going that way to meet with Major Davis anyway.

He met the instructor in his office, the Major closed the door and said, I have two things I want to talk about and neither are dependent upon the other."

Juan said, "OK, shoot"

The man continued, "Bobby tells me that you guys have a campground over on the other side of the Boy's Home that is big enough to handle a JROTC campout, is that correct?

Juan replied, "Yes, that is one of the uses we built it for."

The Major continued then, "Could we reserve it for the first two weeks after school lets out and how much will it cost?"

Juan said, "One of the requirements for use is that it costs the campers nothing and, yes, you may use it for those two weeks."

The Major continued, "Now that you are sat down, I want to tell you that Bobby Moralis is being promoted to Cadet Lt. Colonel and will command the JROTC unit next year, his senior year."

Juan looked at him, gobsmacked! "My Bobby?"

Major Davis smiled, "Yes, YOUR BOBBY!"

He continued, "Are you aware that Bobby Moralis is on the Dean's List this year and he is Number 1 in his class?"

Juan stammered, "I knew he was running all A's, but Number 1? Lt. Colonel, Commanding? Oh my God!"

The Major let it all sink in and then he said, "Mr. Moralis, I am not sure exactly what it is you are doing, but ALL those boys, even John Peters's boys are straight A students now. They are popular, they are the top students in this school!"

Continuing, he said, "We all think you are running a miracle factory over there!"

The following week was the JROTC Change of Command Ceremony celebrating the end of the school year.

The Instructor stood up and said, "This year we are going to do things a little different. Will Cadet Bobby Moralis please come to the stage."

Bobby marched up to the stage and smartly saluted Major Davis.

The Major continued, "Cadet Moralis has shown all the properties desired in an outstanding Cadet Officer, not only in his JROTC classes, but he is also the highest scoring student in our school! I present to you, ladies and gentlemen, Cadet Lt. Colonel Bobby Moralis"

Bobby stepped forward and said, "Thank you Major Davis, ladies and gentlemen and distinguished guests. Nobody can do this alone, we all have those who support us and encourage us, those who lead us and those we lead are all part of our experience. A man I met some time ago is part of my experience, he so impressed me that I asked him to be here, will Colonel Matthew Bellingham please come to the stage."

The Colonel came up from the audience and stood in front of Booby, who snapped him a precision salute and then asked him to be seated on the stage.

Juan was becoming very uncomfortable wondering what was going on.

Bobby continued, "One of the most important figures in my life has been my Dad, Mr. Juan Edward Moralis. Not only is he a notable here in Hurley, he also was this during his time in the United States Army. Will Mr. Juan Moralis, Dad, please come to the stage.

Juan did so, wondering what Bobby was doing.

Bobby saluted his father and then asked him to face the audience. He began, "Ladies and Gentlemen, this is my Father, Juan Edward Moralis, a son of Hurley and the man who saved my life, quite literally, he scooped me up out of a ditch. But my life was not the first he saved, nor was it the last. He saved lives in Viet Nam, he saved lives here in Hurley, New Mexico and it is my objective to make the heroism of this great man known to you all."

He then spoke directly to Juan, "Mr. Moralis, SIR, you are out of uniform, SIR!"

He then lifted a blue and white ribbon from the podium and hung it around his Father's neck, a medallion was strung at the bottom of the ribbon.

It was a red, white and blue ribbon that all present recognized! Bobby then ordered, "CADETS . HAND SALUTE!...... TWO!

Ladies and Gentlemen I present to you Army Sergeant First Class Juan Edward Moralis, retired, MEDAL OF HONOR AWARDEE SINCE 1967!"

Amid the thunder of applause, Bobby whispered to his dad, "I had to do it Dad, you are the best there ever will be!"

The remainder of the program was anti-climatic, poor Juan was seated in a complete daze, his 17 year old son had so completely flummoxed him, his sister, Anita, had to drive him home that night!

The remainder of the summer was much quieter, Dennis Kaufmann, Jr. got married, in a wedding that was held at the Elementary School.

His Father was the Best Man and the boys of Moralis Boy's Home were in the cheering section.

The JROTC held their two-week campout and it was so successful that plans were begun immediately for the next year.

Juan still pined for his son, Danny, but the detective firm could find no trace of him. Juan finally cancelled the contract, he realized that it just was not going to be.

By August the Home had only two vacant bedrooms so, after conferring with Dennis, Juan let a contract to construct a second building. It was to be bigger and would include an indoor swimming pool and a basketball court.

He advertised for two additional mentors and was soon flooded with applicants, none of whom impressed him.

On a hunch, he called the Social Services office at the VA Hospital in Tucson to ask if they had any young veterans looking for a job who would be suitable.

The young lady on the telephone said they had four young men, but they were all handicapped.

Juan replied, "I am handicapped myself and it sure hasn't slowed me down! Send all four to see me, we will pay their expenses!"

Two days later four young men drove up in a battered old Ford pickup, billowing smoke out the exhaust like a locomotive!

They all helped each other exit the truck, they had been packed in like sardines.

Two were on crutches and one was obviously just learning to use his prosthetic leg.

The fourth stumbled along on two canes.

Juan met them at the front door of the Home, the young men, Carl and Lonny Johnston, brothers from Medford, Oregon, Angel Suarez from Tucson, Arizona and Albert Conners from Seattle, Washington.

All had been Navy Sailors assigned to the River Boats in Viet Nam and had been injured in the same incident.

Albert Conners spoke up, "Mr. Moralis, sir, we four have been through hell together, is there any possibility that we can stay together?"

Juan's eyes misted over, looking at the four clean-cut young men who had been through so much together, he resolved to make it happen.

He said, "First of all, my name is Juan, NOT sir! Do you guys think you can handle rowdy teen boys and some may even be gay to boot?"

Albert looked at his friends and they all nodded. He replied, "Sir, eeer, Juan, if we can stay together, we will handle the devil himself, anything!"

Juan had already seen their resumes and had decided that any of them would be ideal.

He replied, "OK, go home and get your belongings. You ALL can start as soon as you get back here."

Albert said, "Juan, all that we own is in the back of my truck, can we start now?"

He was sure now that the young men were on their own and had no place, nor families to call their own. Not wanting to embarrass them, he said, "Great, you start now. Lunch is in twenty minutes!"

He then called some of the boys to help bring in their belongings and the look of relief on the young men's faces was too great to hide.

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