Mr. Ken welcomed his guests and then introduced his boys to them. Matthew was the last boy to be introduced and he asked them if they had voted before coming in. Many said they had. A few that said they hadn't and were asked by Matthew to please do so, because their vote could swing the winner one way or another.
The County Commissioners and their wives arrived almost at the same time. Many of the other local dignitaries and politicians arrived sporadically as the evening moved along. Mr. Ken welcomed the contractors, and their dates or spouse, he dealt with. Some of the school board and hospital board members also attended the evening's premier event of the year.
When Ms. Judy arrived she had Eric with her. Mr. Ken hugged her and shook Eric's hand. All the boys were surprised Eric was there and all Ms. Judy had to say was she wasn't going to leave her thirteen-year-old son home alone. Robert was happy as can be that his Best Friend was there. The two boys headed off to talk.
It was then Mr. Ken remembered to invite Eric to spend the night. He mentally kicked himself for forgetting he was going to do that. But he knew it was too late to do anything about it now, so he just pressed on.
DA Morris and Sheriff Barnes arrived with their spouses. Some of the county's department heads also arrived and, by 9 p.m., the vast majority of Mr. Ken's guests had arrived.
The Cover boys did go out to the garage to see how the party out there was coming along. When Matthew went out there with his 'brothers', the young ladies saw him and began fawning all over him. They thought he was a real cutie and they wanted him to dance with them. Matthew blushed all shades of red.
Matthew told them he didn't know how to dance, but the young women wouldn't take no for an answer. One of them dragged the young boy out onto the garage floor being used as their dance floor and began to move to the beat. They showed Matthew what to do and told him to follow their lead. Matthew wasn't keeping up with the beat of the music, but he was slowly getting the hang of the dance moves.
The other girls, to the chagrin of their dates, got the other Cover boys out on the dance floor with them and began to dance. Robert and Eric weren't perfect, but they did learn some dance moves last spring when Mr. Ken hosted their birthday and School's Out parties. Charles tried his best to dance, but was laughing more than he was dancing.
The twins were also taken out onto the dance floor. They didn't have a clue what was happening to them, but they tried to match what the girls were showing them. Then, one girl went and asked the band to slow it down some. That let the girls and boys get closer together.
Robert and Eric were thoroughly enjoying the experience. Matthew, on the other hand, was totally embarrassed as he held onto the girl's waist. Kevin and Kyle told each other through their twin link "We don't like no girls", but that didn't matter as they were beginning to have fun. And with girls no less.
Mr. Wayne hadn't seen the boys for some time, so he went looking for them. When he went out to the high school's New Year's Eve Party what he saw made him smile. There they were, the six Cover boy, dancing with these high school girls and they were doing a slow dance.
Not only were they in a slow dance they all had big smiles on their faces. Mr. Wayne looked up to the upper corners of the garage to make sure the security cameras were there. He couldn't wait until he told his boss what he was seeing.
It was a little past 9 o'clock when some sirens were heard coming from a distance. It sounded as if they were getting closer to Three Finger Cove. The guests out on the Patio were curious as to where they were going and if they were fire engines headed to a close-by fire or police cruisers chasing some bad people.
It was when Mr. Ken's cell phone rang and he answered it that he learned what the sirens meant. He looked for his 'boys' and Mr. Wayne and couldn't see them anywhere. He pulled out his radio and made a Code 99 call to all the Covers.
The boys were in the middle of their dance when all of their radios went off. The boys stopped dancing and answered only to hear there was a Code 99 and were to meet in the Study right away. The boys excused themselves and walked quickly into the house.
All of the students, their teachers and their dates, as well, were surprised at what just happened. They thought it strange their dad, Mr. Ken, had that close a hold on the boys and that they jumped when he called. Little did they know why their Host called for his son's to assemble in his Study.
"Boys ... very soon we'll have the Texas Lieutenant Governor arriving at our front door. I want us there to meet and greet him. He is a very important man whom I never thought would ever accept my invitation. I even sent one to the Governor, but he's already been here, so I knew he wouldn't come again.
"Anyway, the Lt. Governor has probably been invited to thousands of New Year's Eve Parties and he's chosen to attend ours. This is a great honor boys, but please ... please be careful what you say and to whom you say it," said Mr. Ken, as he advised his 'boys' and Mr. Wayne.
Mr. Ken then remembered Mr. Chris. He figured he was probably in his office counting the votes, so he sent Mr. Wayne down to tell him, so he could meet the man, too.
The Covers heard the sirens before they saw the police escort. The other guests had heard the sirens, as well, and as they got closer the guests gravitated out to the front of the house to see what they were all about. It was then the flashing red and blue lights came rushing into the estate. Only one vehicle, a stretch limo, came up the circular drive.
The Covers walked outside to meet the man as he exited the vehicle.
"Lieutenant Governor ... it is a pleasure to have you here tonight," offered Ken Thomas, as he extended his hand to shake the Lt. Governor's.
"Sir, I would like you to meet my extended family. This is my son, Robert and his best friend Eric. The other boys are my foster sons and they are Charles, Kevin, Kyle and Matthew," added The Cove's Owner. "And this gentleman is my Estate Manager, Chris Dominions and this is my Estate Master, Wayne Mitchell.
"Mr. Ken, it is a pleasure to be here with you at your wonderful and well-decorated home. The governor had told me about your place and I just had to come and see it for myself. And, boys, I'd have to say you are the luckiest kids to be able to live here. Is Collin here too?" asked the Lt. Governor.
Mr. Ken explained about Collin and why he wasn't there. Then, as the two men walked into the home, people who knew the Lt. Governor came up to him and shook his hand. In the meantime, the man's handler went looking for a bar to get a drink for the Lt. Governor. When he found it he got the man a scotch on the rocks and brought it to him.
The guests there that night were pleasantly surprised they had a bona fide political leader in their midst. They had heard when the Governor came to Three Finger Cove that a number of people who had been invited and didn't show were in a lot of trouble. They wondered who wasn't there tonight who were supposed to be. Some even laughed at the thought.
Mr. Ken gave the Lt. Governor a personal tour of The Cove. When the man saw the picture of the skate park in the Study, Mr. Ken told him the back-story. The man was impressed that his host spent his money on worthwhile things. He only hoped he could convince him to send a little of it their way as he and the Governor were up for reelection next November.
Word spread quickly that the Lt. Governor was in the house and everyone was trying to get a look at him and maybe a picture with the man. The high school students were beside themselves, as they never thought someone that important would, could ever happen to them.
The guests crowded all around the Lt. Governor as he walked over to the bar to get another drink. After that, Mr. Ken escorted him outside to show him where the evening's menu could be found. He also showed him the many animated decorations he set up along the lake, so people out on the lake at night could enjoy them.
"Ken ... while we have a few quiet minutes. Walk with me down to your dock. OK?" softly spoke the man
When the two men arrived at the dock, they took a seat on a bench there and continued their talk.
"Ken ... the Governor ... ahh ... he and I ... ahh ... we would greatly appreciate it if you would support us for reelection next November. We're both up against stiff opponents this time around and ... well ... he's told me that ...that you've been a big supporter of his from way back in your college days. And, we both ... would appreciate any monetary support you can give us.
"Ken, he thinks the world of you and ... and knows ... knows you would be a good fit in his administration. I know you turned him down before, but ... well, you did a great job for him during the recovery from that huge storm, of what, four or five years ago? And ... he would like for you to seriously consider taking a position ... in his inner circle during his next term. If he is reelected"
Mr. Ken took some time to process what the Lt. Governor just said. He was no longer the bright-eyed self-absorbed college student of so long ago. At the time, he liked what the Governor stood for which was why he supported him then and ever since. He figured his being thrust into the recovery position was a payback and to get him some exposure down where he lived.
"Well, I appreciate the offer to work in the governor's administration, but ... I now have a son. He was essentially abandoned by his parents when they were both sent to prison. And there is no way I can devote my life to government work right now, and not see him every day as I now do.
"On top of that, I have four foster sons who, through no fault of their own, are in the system and now count on me. And, I have my business concerns that I just can't walk away from. I just bought three amusement parks back east and I am looking to buy two more. All of you established yourselves before you got into politics and, at my young age, I need the time to do the same.
"Lt. Governor ... I will support you and the Governor in your reelection contests. And for now, he hasn't done anything that I don't support and neither have you," chuckled Ken Thomas.
"I appreciate your asking me to join you in Austin, but for now my place is here at The Cove, with my 'sons'. I am building my empire one item at a time, and by the time I am your age I may very well be ready to jump right in and do what is right for Texas. I hope you understand and will tell the Governor my thoughts," finished Mr. Ken.
"The Governor said you'd probably turn me down. He's kept track of you, my boy. He thinks the world of you. You joined him while in college and supported him financially with more funds than he'd ever expected from someone so young. Ken ... you one day ... will be a force to be reckoned with. Look what you've accomplished here in your small part of the world over the past four years.
"I sort of envy your youth and fresh outlook on things. Your dedication to your 'boys' as you call them. They are the lucky ones to have you in their young lives, that's for sure," offered the Lt. Governor.
"No, you've got that all wrong," strongly said Mr. Ken. "It is I ... who is the lucky one here ... to have them in MY life. They've brought life and happiness back to The Cove, and I wouldn't have it any other way," replied Mr. Ken.
The two men walked up from the dock and were immediately met on the Patio by the Lt. Governor's handlers who were keeping Mr. Chris back. Mr. Ken told them he worked for him and he obviously needed to talk to him. They let him through.
Mr. Chris was there to tell his boss he now had the winner of the Toy Soldier competition. That piqued the interest of the Lt. Governor, so he asked what that was all about. Mr. Ken let Mr. Chris explain about the high school students creating the Toy Soldiers out front and the voting process they used.
As it was going on 10 p.m., Mr. Ken told the Lt. Governor he promised he would announce the winner when the band took its break. And, not hearing any music, he told the man he better get inside and get it done.
As the two men walked towards the door, the owner of The Cove asked the Lt. Governor if he would do the honors, saying the high school students would be thrilled to meet him and receive their award from someone so high in state political circles.
When the men walked inside, Mr. Ken immediately walked them to the band's small stage and used the microphone there to get everyone's attention. While Mr. Ken did that, Mr. Chris went out to the garage to invite the students, their teachers and their dates into the main portion of the house.
"Ladies and gentlemen, as I mentioned a few moments ago, it is time that I announce the winner of the Toy Soldier competition that I sponsored for the first time this year. How about we give these talented high school students a round of applause for their hard work and wonderful creations.
"I have in my hands the final count of the votes and thus the winner of the competition. What I am going to do is announce the 2ndPlace winner first. I need to build up some suspense, here don't I. And, the Lt. Governor ... he has graciously agreed to pass out the awards.
"OK. I know the students and their advisors are waiting on pins and needles, so let me open the envelope and announced the 2nd Place Runner-up. ...
"And the winner of a $750.00 scholarship, to the vocational training school of their choice, for each and every member of the team is ... Alvin York High School," announced Ken Thomas. And, as he did, all the guests applauded loudly.
The team's teacher and lead builder approached the stage and the Lt. Governor handed them their 2nd Place Plaque and a nice sized trophy. Pictures were taken with the man and Mr. Thomas. Then, Mr. Ken invited the entire team to come up and have their picture taken with the Lt. Governor and him.
After several pictures were taken and hands shook, Mr. Chris handed Mr. Ken the 1st Place winners' envelope and the 3rd Place runners' up envelope.
"Before I announce the 1st Place winner, I want to tell you that all of the members of the 3rd Place team in addition to a trophy will each receive a $500.00 scholarship, to the vocational training school of their choice.
"The 1st Place team's members will each receive, besides a personal trophy, a $1000.00 scholarship, to the vocational training school of their choice a trophy to place in their trophy case at the high school.. They will also have possession of a Traveling Trophy that will stay with the winning school until next year's competition.
"All of these boys and girls have done a tremendous job and in a short amount of time. Next year, I'll announce the project as soon as school starts and that should give the schools' vocational wings more time to work on the project.
"Now ... let me open the envelope and tell you who the 1st Place winner is. And the recipient of the $1000.00 scholarship for each and every team member is ... ... Buddy Holly High School!" announced Mr. Ken Thomas, the sponsor of the Toy Soldier competition.
The girls on the team screamed when they heard they'd won. The entire team rushed to the stage and surrounded the Lt. Governor and Mr. Thomas. The applause was almost deafening inside The Cove when the overall winner was announced. The Lt. Governor handed the teacher/advisor a Plaque and then a very tall and worthy trophy. He then gave out certificates to every team member.
Pictures were taken with the Lt. Governor and Mr. Thomas and hands were shaken all around. It took a little longer for the ceremony to wind down. But Mr. Ken wasn't done.
"Ladies and gentlemen ... let us not forget or minimize what the Pleasant Hill High School team did. They too deserve to be recognized and receive their prize. Would that team's members please come up to the stage and be acknowledged," announced Mr. Ken.
The 3rd Place team came forward to a very loud applause. The teacher accepted the Plaque and trophy. The students each got their certificate from the Lt. Governor and got to shake hands with him. The pictures were taken and when the ceremony was over the Lt. Governor asked if he could say a few words.
"Ladies and gentlemen and students ... what you saw here tonight ... was one man's way of continuing to contribute to the community he lives in. Mr. Ken Thomas ... he saw an opportunity to encourage vocational training in the local high schools ... and ... using his own money, he created this competition, and I do believe he succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.
"Did you see them? I mean did you really look them over, those Toy Soldier creations outside? These high school vocational students ... they put them together in record time and I do believe they all need another round of applause for their efforts.
After the applause died down, the man continued. "And, we all know what Mr. Thomas has done with so many other worthwhile causes. Just look at what he did for the "Rally 4 Rodney" campaign and the "Stop Violence Against Students" movement three years ago. I understand they are still operating and doing a great job.
"And how many of you know that it was Mr. Ken who put up the money to build the Lakeside Water Park? And, did you know, he personally paid to build and outfit the Lake Water Safety and Rescue Team Headquarters? Mr. Ken, as you all know him by, is also building the hotel and office building out on the lake.
"And, I bet many of you don't know this. Your host for tonight ... he paid for the infrastructure out at Four Corners, so it could be developed and make life so much easier for those of you who live in this part of the county.
"Are you also aware he is about to begin construction on 800 new apartment, in two 400-unit phases, over at Four Corners. And did you know at least 150 of those apartments, in each phase, will be dedicated to senior living and have a separate entrance?
"Your Mr. Ken is an asset to this community ... and he leads by example. He adopted a son and he is now the foster dad to four more well-deserving boys. I think we all owe Mr. Ken Thomas a round of applause for what he's done for you and what he'll most likely do for you in the future," was how the Lt. Governor ended his little speech.
The crowd erupted in a spontaneous round of applause and those close to Mr. Ken began shaking his hand and patting him on his back. The photographer took many shots of the man and his well-wishers. It was then the band came back to resume their playing.
The Lt. Governor got himself another drink and made the rounds with the local politicos. Mr. Ken went out to the garage New Year's Eve Party where the high school students and their teachers thanked Mr. Thomas for holding the Toy Soldier competition.
The students told him they hoped he'd do it again next year, because it was a lot of fun and they learned so much. The man said he was going to, but wouldn't reveal the project until he got permission from the high schools as he had to that year.
The high school students also thanked him for such large scholarships. They said they had no idea that was what they were competing for. Mr. Ken smiled and said they should thank his Estate Manager, Chris Dominions. Laughing he told them it was he who decided on how much it was going to cost him. Everyone laughed.
The Cover boys stayed busy talking to their guests and they even went back out to the garage to see if they could get in another dance. Some of the high school students asked them how well the ramps were holding out. They walked out to look them over. While they looked the ramps over Matthew spoke up and told them that their 'dad' was going to build them a completely new skate park and he pointed out to the upper field. The boys whistled and wished they could see it.
Robert had his phone, so he took it out and showed them the picture he took of the new Cove Skate Park. The high school students were totally surprised at the scope of the project and the number of elements it would have. The seniors lamented they'd not get the chance to see it when it was done.
The girls saw all the boys talking to the younger kids, so they felt ignored. The young women decided they'd go out and ask who was going to dance with them. The six Cover boys all held up their hands. The girls smiled and each boy was picked by a high school girl and led back into the garage where the band was playing a slow dance.
Matthew was still embarrassed he was holding onto a girl. He still blushed, but he liked what he was doing. The teens were getting their groove on and were having fun, as well. Charles was still laughing that he was out on the dance floor dancing with older girls, but he didn't care, as he too was having fun.
The twins, who 'don't like no girls' got into the dance. Yes, they still had two left feet, but this was something, so out of character for them, that they were thoroughly enjoying it. The girls swooned over them because they were not only so cute but so alike they couldn't tell which one was which.
The New Year's Eve night moved on. Everyone was having fun and the two bands were playing very well and keeping the dancers in the mood. Some political and business contacts were made that night which is why parties such as that are good for the people who attend.
Judge Adam and his wife Kathleen sought out their friend, Mr. Ken, to talk to him about his 'boys' in general. The judge teased him and told him he was interested in when he would see him in his court again adopting another of his 'sons'. Mr. Ken smiled and then said, before thinking, he had far too many roadblocks ahead of him. The judge pulled him aside and the two had a very private talk.
The boys went looking for their 'dad' after their dances. They found him talking to a man only two of them knew and three only remember seeing him somewhere. 'Dad' Ken could see they had such big smiles on their faces that he just had to find out why. When they told him they there were out in the garage dancing with the girls 'dad' Ken had to laugh. Even Judge Adam had a good laugh at hearing that.
'Dad' Ken thanked his 'boys' for telling him and told them that in about a half-hour they would be celebrating the New Year and then the fireworks. He told them that soon they would have the countdown for the stroke of midnight. He told them he wanted to meet them out at the Patio bannister, so they could enjoy the fireworks all together.
The Lt. Governor made the rounds a few times that night, and not just by visiting the open bar. He made sure he was amongst friends and he made a few new allies along the way. The guests talked with the man, but they knew not to dominate his time, but to let others have a word with him as well.
As it got closer to the magic hour, the bandleader told everyone to charge, or fill, their glasses and to find their special someone to share the dawn of a New Year. The Cover boys found Mr. Wayne and told him where their 'dad' wanted to meet them and they asked him to share the moment with them. They started looking for Mr. Chris, but Mr. Wayne said he went home after the ceremony to be with his wife and kids.
As midnight got closer, Mr. Ken made sure the champagne was ready for pouring and the glasses were ready, too. The host was walking around making sure the countdown would go as planned, and on time. He hoped his boys would be out on the Patio at the appointed time.
"10, 9 , 8 , 7 , 6 , 5 , 4 , 3 , 2 , 1 HAPPY NEW YEAR!" yelled the band leader, and immediately had his bandmates play Auld Lang Syne.
The people began to hug and kiss their significant other or spouse and then they began to sing:
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
and auld lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my jo,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
People never get further than the first stanza and Chorus. They were never made to learn the entire song growing up, and even if they did they'd stop then anyway as they're more interested in recharging their drink.
At the stroke of midnight, the barge lit up its fireworks out on the lake. The eight Covers met at the Patio banister that overlooked the dock and they enjoyed the show together from there. It was Charles who remembered the 4th of July Picnic when Smokey had abducted him, and he never really got the chance to watch them.
The high school students, teachers and dates saw the fireworks show from the top of the parking corral. It overlooked the lake and Patio and they had a straight-on view of the event. The security guards, Sheriff's Deputies and Police Explorers were up at the Main Gate and they too had a grand view of the awesome fireworks.
The fireworks show lasted thirty-five minutes and when it was over the guests applauded loudly. Then, they began to head out from the Party. Most of them sought out their host to thank him for a wonderful evening before heading home. That told Mr. Ken he needed to get up to the Foyer to thank the rest of his guests for coming.
The students and their teachers and dates again thanked him for inviting them to a very special New Year's Eve Party. They hoped he would invite next year's team to the same awesome experience.
It was just after 1 a.m. when the last guest left the house and headed to their vehicle. The caterer decided not to take down the tent. She knew she would be back at 1 p.m. later that day to serve the leftovers from tonight's menu to his New Year's Day Swim Party.
The high school students who worked for Mr. Ken at the two previous Holiday Parties were leaving about the same time. They were tired but happy they made it through the night. They all said Goodnight to Mr. Ken and told him they would be back to help serve and then clean up after the Swim Party later that afternoon.
When it was quiet in The Cove, the Covers went to the Study to put their two-way radios in their charging stations, then sit, talk and relax some before going to bed. The boys couldn't contain their enthusiasm from what they had just experienced. They could never remember being a part of something that huge and they told their 'dad' they couldn't wait until next year.
After witnessing a few stifled yawns, 'dad' Ken told his 'sons' to get to bed. They all hugged him and Mr. Wayne and then slowly walked up the stairs to their bedroom. Mr. Ken went up to the boys' rooms to wish them goodnight and sweet dreams and tell them to sleep in and get all the rest they could.
But by the time he got up there five to seven minutes later the boys were all in bed and under the coves and sound asleep. Their suits were strewn all over their rooms causing him to break a smile. They all had to have been extremely worn-out to do that. He kissed them all on their foreheads and then headed down to his bedroom to get some much-deserved sleep.
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