THANE & ELISE
Every board member at the conference table of The Caverns erupts in cheers, clapping or pounding on the table.
Up until now, those in the community had to come up the mountain, where The Caverns is located, if they wanted to get extra food, counseling, or other resources. Now, in the newly built, two-story office building, the food pantry will be housed on the first floor, while its other services will be provided above the food pantry on the second floor. We used The Caverns’ name in this community to launch Cavern House Services, a community service mission created with the help of all the members.
“Yes. Aye, I’m proud of the work that we continue tae do for the Glory of our Mighty God, and by extension, for those in the community that need help.”
The Caverns is a five-star restaurant and winery. Tourists who come to visit Yellowstone visit The Caverns for good food; some simply come for the good Scottish drinks. We’ll still hold trainings and shelter those who can’t find space at the community shelter, but the bulk of our work can be done in town now.
Forrest loves his ministry. He also loves to run his restaurant and winery, which he inherited from his uncle. The Caverns is my home away from home. Where else can I get a good meal from a world-class chef, along with some good conversation and real Scottish whisky? All at a place where the like-minded can talk about the Word of God openly?
I look around this table at our original board members: Lady Valerie, Braun, Delcan, Griffin, Duke, my brother Kane, Chandler, Jasper, and Gilford. In spirit, of course, are all our brothers not at this meeting but who live up in Montana: Quint, Remington, and Blake. The twelve of us all helped write the bylaws for The Caverns.
Most of us here returned home from active duty and later all came together as clients of Forrest, who served as a general chaplain in the service and is now a therapist.
Now, instead of just helping brothers and sisters-in-arms returning home from active duty, who come to The Caverns to stay for a bit and get the financial and mental help some of us need, our outreach now also involves helping the community.
There is something of all that we need here, notwithstanding, The Caverns is a ministry where the unadulterated Word of God is taught, not just by Forrest but also by all here who are certified to minister.
I wanted to serve; that’s why I joined the Marines and served two tours. When I returned home, I was lost. Growing up, my pa was a man of rules and purpose, so I am used to structure and discipline. But it wasn’t until I graduated high school that I really came to understand that. I didn’t know what my purpose in life was. So, I bucked around and worked on my family ranch.
I love my family, love working on our ranch, and really love the Lord, but I didn’t know if I wanted to become a rancher like my pa. So, I joined the service, what I needed, and made a lot of close friends that I’m close with to this day, but I missed ranching.
So, I came home with a vision: to make The Bailey Ranch one of the best in Wyoming, and I did. I turned our two-hundred-thousand-acre family ranch into a multi-million-dollar corporation, specializing not only in cattle but also in using subsidiaries such as an organic farming business, a three-week camping compound for at-danger youths—where I serve as a minister—and, in the near future, a research facility in animal science.
Not all board members have served in the military; some have contributed to helping those in need while serving in the ministry, which got them on the board.
“Well, if no one has any questions….?” Forrest pauses, looking around the room.
We all look at each other, silently daring anyone to ask Forrest a question to prolong this already three-hour-long meeting. Forrest is thorough, especially when it comes to the ministry business, and in being so, is long-winded at times.
“Okay, well, that’s all for now,” he finally says, and we all stand and begin to file out.
I get up, push my chair back under the table, and make my way toward the double glass doors.
“Ah, Laird Thane, kin you hang back a moment, please? I would like tae take up an issue with you.”
I stop in mid-step. My head falls. I had my hand on the door handle. I almost made it out. That request from Forrest sets off a round of snickers and chuckles.
Braun sidles up next to me. “Remember, when he has an issue, he’s really asking for a favor, or he has an issue with you. It’s best to just listen, because if you hurry him, he’ll know he hit gold.”
Braun, recently married, is a close childhood friend. He served as an Army Ranger, same time as I enlisted.
Without giving a response to Braun, I turn to face Forrest.
Everyone, and I mean, everyone who has any kind of relationship with Forrest, be it one of his clients or someone he’s ministered to at any point, knows that Forrest is an extreme problem-solver of the highest order. Meaning, he’s nosey.
While alone, Forrest never uses titles. “Thane, kin you come and have a seat, please?”
I walk back to the conference table and re-take the seat I just vacated. I lean back and prop my booted feet on the table. Forrest walks out of the conference room and into his office. A few seconds later, he reappears with a file, which he sets near my feet up on the table.
He sits next to me, smooths his tie, sits back, and inquires, “Thane, how have you been?”
Years back, when I came home for good from active duty, I suffered down in my spirit. I needed Deliverance. I also had a hard time getting back into civilian life, and since, by happenchance, I knew Forrest, I started having regular sessions with him. That was about the same time Forrest inherited The Caverns from his uncle.
My spirit needed Deliverance. With prayer, fasting, and helping those who were in need and unable to pay anything back, I was blessed. After months of seeking my deliverance, I was delivered, and I have never felt such peace and contentment.
I got into the Word of God studying the Bible day and night, reading it from beginning to end over and over. I picked up every supplemental text I could that dealt with breaking down the Word so that I could really understand it.
I look at Forrest, giving him the side eye. I want to expedite this conversation. “I’ve been fine, Forrest,” I say and fold my arms in front of me.
“I kin, you no longer need any sessions, but I want tae take this time tae catch up with you.”
In Forrest code, that means being nosey.
“How are you doing now that Beth and Joseph have moved down tae Florida?” Forrest asks.
“I’m doing fine.” My parents, Beth and Joseph Bailey, are two of the best people I know. Every decision I have ever made, be it resulting in a good or bad turnout, my parents supported me. The day they dropped me off at boot camp, my ma didn’t shed a tear. My brother Kane later told me that she cried for days after I left.
Six years ago, after I finished my classes, earning my MBA, I started talking to my pa about retiring. Our land has been in our family for five generations, and my pa has served his time. It was time for Kane and me to take our land in another direction other than just stock.
So, two years ago, I finished building my own home about two miles from my childhood home—which Kane renovated and allowed me to live in temporarily until my new house was done. I started collecting info on the best areas to retire to. I remembered when Ma had offhandedly mentioned years ago that Wyoming winters are becoming too harsh for her. Her chronic aches and pains are made worse at times by the harsh winter months.
So, Florida seemed like as good a place as any to build them a retirement residence. Ma thought building a new place would give Pa something to concentrate on instead of the changes I was making on the ranch.
Kane and I finally moved them down there for good four months ago. I stayed there for weeks getting them settled into their rental home while their new place was being built, causing me to miss Chandler’s wedding in the process. After their new home was finished, Kane and I went back down to help them transition there from their rental. Then, one issue after another cropped up with the builder, of their new home. I do regret that I missed Chandler’s and Braun’s weddings.
“Good. Good. Well, I have a bit of news that you may want tae hear,” he informs me. “I wanted tae make you aware that I will be asking Lady Elise Montgomery tae perform at the next Gathering.”
Each year, The Caverns has a Gathering. For Forrest’s family, a gathering means a meeting of the clans. Here, it’s a dinner/slash fundraiser to raise funds for The Caverns to help those in need and for whatever services The Caverns provides that is not yet offered in-house.
For example, The Caverns funds the services of doctors and therapists who run separate mobile trailers, which go around town and out into more rural areas, traveling to those in need. The Caverns have also hired financial experts, real estate developers and brokers, and more who are all members here and who help head financial classes designed to steer those in financial bondage out of such situations—and help them stay out of them.
Not a day has gone by when I haven’t thought about Elise in some way. She’s the only woman I have thought about every day for the last four years. The two hours we spent together in that garden were the best of my life. Leaving the greenhouse, when I had walked her to her rental car so she could drive out of my sight, was a low point in my life.
Imagine my shock when, while watching Braun and Lady Natalie’s wedding and reception video, I see the very same woman I’ve never been able to get out of my mind, giving a toast with tears streaming down her cheeks.
“It is tae bad, you couldnae have come tae the wedding of Braun,” Forrest says, then sits forward in his chair, opens the file by my feet, and flips it open to a picture of Elise. Like I don’t have a host of pictures of her on my phone already that I’d gotten off her website. “What I wouldnae have given tae see the tae of you come face tae face after all this time,” he adds.
As my friend and former therapist, I told Forrest what happened to me the day I met Elise. Turns out, Braun later told us how he and his wife met that day and how they came back together after four years of being apart.
I look at Forrest, then back at the picture of Elise, take my feet off the table, sit forward with my elbows on it, and look at Forrest. “Wait. What do you mean, ‘Lady Elise’? To my knowledge, Elise isn’t married.”
That word, Lady, resonates in my mind. According to one of Forrest’s bylaws, the boardmen are called Lairds, and the married lady members, and those who are married to male board members, are referred to as Ladies. Each Lady is given a string of white pearls because Forrest’s ma loves pearls.
These titles are used because Forrest is a Scottish Laird, but he says titles mean nothing in Christ. Man gives titles, but we use them among the board members of The Caverns because he still wants to respect his heritage, appease his father and his uncle Ben, and remind us that we are all the same. No one among us is higher than the others.
“Oh, aye…” He props one elbow on the armrest and rests his chin on his thumb. “How would you ken that?”
Of course, I’ve followed Elise’s career since I first saw her by happenchance three years ago, in a music video.
Because Elise is also the best friend of his sister, Sophia, Forrest would brag that he knows a famous Gospel artist. He never said back then how he knew Elise, and I didn’t care enough to ask. Back then, I didn’t want anyone to know about Elise and our brief encounter. That time I spent with Elise was special to me, and I didn’t want Forrest analyzing it, making that warm and incomparable time something clinical.
He points to the folder, which I pick up. Everyone who has donated to The Caverns has a file with all the pertinent information on that person or organization, and their affiliates. I read through his written notes.
What I read has my eyes about to pop out of my sockets. I look at Forrest. “How did you come by this?”
“Well, a few months ago, a private detective came by the old church we were using as a pantry at the time. He was looking for you.”
I put the folder down and stand up. “Why didn’t you tell me this then?”
“Well, I had tae do some looking intae this miself. I wanted tae ken why. And at the time, you had your hands full with your parents. What I did find out was confirmed at the wedding of Braun and Lady Natalie, two months prior—that Lady Elise was looking for you.”
“She came out and told you this?” I ask out of shock and pure relief that she was looking for me. I’ve long since wanted to see her but didn’t want to get in the way of her career.
During our time together, Elise expressed such a passion for using her God-given talent to sing the Word of God, I wouldn’t have dared get in the way of God’s plan for Elise’s life.
“Oh, aye, and she asked me not tae tell you.”
“What? Why would you agree to that?” I ask, needing to know, especially in light of the fact that a private detective is looking for me.
“Because she’s now my client. I couldn’t breach a client’s confidence, but what you dinnae see in those notes is the reason why she’s looking for you.”
“Forrest, so help me, the Lord…”
“The vows that that minister said over Braun and his wife came from the same man who said the vows over the tae of you. When Lady Natalie found out she was married tae Braun, Lady Elise did some digging and found out the same result for the tae of you.” He stands up, puts one hand on my shoulder, and stares down at me intently. “You and Lady Elise have been married all this time.”
“So, why are you telling me this now?” My voice is raised.
He smiles. I don’t like that. He flips through the folder and holds the page up for me to see. “She, by happenchance, I think, or because she has aligned herself tae think of herself as married, checked the box that would allow me tae discuss her file with her spouse,” Forrest says and puts the file down. “I only came across this after our first consultation, over the phone.”
I kick the seat back with the heel of my boot and walk toward the door.
“Thane, what are you going tae do about this?” Forrest asks at my back.
I turn while grabbing the door handle. “I’m going to get ready for my wife.”