Diane’s Gift

By: Kate Matthews

“Ye Ol’ Disclaimer”: Characters such as the Dukes, and Diane Benson belong to their creator – the genius Gy Waldron. However, any other characters (i.e. Jimmy & Marilou Benson, J.B. Carson, Andy Duke) are mine and permission must be asked before using them, and all other future characters that I can crank out of my ever-active imagination.
You can reach me, or tell me what you think of my stories, by e-mailing:
Kmatt81@hotmail.com
Or
Kmatt@home.com

May 1981…

Bo Duke sat on a chair within the sterile confines of an Atlanta hospital, in the Maternity ward. He never imagined he’d find himself in a place like this, he figured it would have been a while before he ever did. However, this was no longer the time to be mauling over the mysterious ironies of life, this was a time to think responsibly.

Bo got up and paced the whitewash corridors of the maternity ward. There was a pair of large doors at the end of the hall, and Bo paused in mid-pace to stare at them for a moment. Diane Benson was somewhere behind those doors.

Diane Benson was the carnival lady, who had passed through Hazzard eight and a half months ago, with her show. Bo had fallen in love with her and, against the wishes of friends and family, agreed to do a dangerous thirty-two-car jump in the General. Which had nearly gotten two other drivers before him killed.

After it was all over, Diane had left with her carnival, and Bo tried to resume his life as normal. That is until Diane sent a letter, out of the blue, telling him that he was the father of her unborn child. Bo had been running around like a headless chicken for the last six months, trying to figure out what to do. Meanwhile, the rest of the Dukes grew worried. But Bo was too afraid to tell anyone, even Luke, about his baby, and so was Diane.

It had been three hours since Bo had managed to slip away from the farm. No doubt by now his family would send out a search party, if he didn’t at least report in, but he couldn’t leave. At that moment a nurse came out and called to Bo, then lead him through the doors to the room where Diane was.

Diane was lying in bed mopped in sweat, her long hair was damp, and she wore a huge smile on her face accompanied by tears of joy. Bo hesitated.

“It’s alright, Bo.” Diane replied weakly.

Bo could tell she was very tired. He finally mustered up the courage to move closer

” Oh Bo, wait ’til you see her! She’s so beautiful.” Diane spoke again
“She?” Bo repeated “You mean, it’s a girl?”
Diane nodded. In that second Bo’s face spread hugely into a grin

The nurse moved in beside Diane, handing her a tiny, wrapped bundle. Diane extended her arms and accepted her baby, cradling the infant close to her chest. She carefully peered inside the blankets to get a better look at her newborn daughter’s face.

” She looks just like you…” Diane whispered
Bo frowned “S-she does?”

Diane motioned Bo even closer and offered the baby out to him. Bo suddenly grew nervous.

“Oh no, I can’t” Bo shook his head ” I ain’t never held a baby before.”
“Neither have I.” Diane reassured “Go on, Bo. She’s yours. I promise you, you won’t drop her.”

Bo hesitated. One of the nurses saw this and came over to assist. In the next moment, Bo was holding his daughter for the first time. He gently nuzzled the baby’s soft cheek, absorbing the sight of her, as tears sprang to his eyes.

“You’re right.” Bo sniffed “She is beautiful. En’ she does kinda look like me, except a whole lot prettier.”

Both Diane and Bo laughed, but it was soon short-lived. Bo continued to cradle his baby girl, but with a serious face.

“Diane, what are we gonna do now?” Bo asked “I wouldn’t know where to even begin in tellin’ my family about this.”
Diane sighed
“I don’t know the answer to that myself. I guess we’re just going to have to wait and see.”

“And in the meantime, do what?” Bo asked, looking back up from the baby “Diane, I can’t hide somethin’ like this from my family. It wouldn’t be fair to the baby, havin’ to go through life, bein’ our big secret. And I can’t lie to my kin.”
“Well then you have to tell them.” Diane replied
Bo fell silent for a moment.
“Diane, please…will you reconsider comin’ back to Hazzard with me?”

Diane leaned back against the pillows exhausted, and closed her eyes.

“Bo, with what happened between us before, I don’t think it would work out. Besides, I don’t want to cause trouble between you and your family again.”

“Well let me worry about that.” Bo responded quickly “I wanna have my daughter in my life, Diane. Please, we gotta work somethin’ out, don’t take this chance away from me.”

Diane saw Bo’s dark blue eyes, pleading with her, but her mind was made up for what she
thought was the best.

“I’m sorry, Bo…” Diane whispered with a tear rolling down her cheek. “I just don’t know what else to do.”

Bo took in a deep, shuddering breath, and returned his attention back to the sleeping baby in his arms. Bo gazed at his daughter, feeling more and more love for her with each passing moment. This possibly was the first, and last time he’d see her for a long while, and it tore a gaping hole in his heart. Bo’s bottom lip trembled, tears spilled over onto his face as he bent his head and gently kissed the top of his baby’s head, before passing her carefully back to Diane.

“I gotta go…” Bo whispered, the words catching in his throat. “Until I find a way to deal with this…until I can confront my family…I think it best we give it time…”

Diane nodded, biting her bottom lip. “I understand…just don’t wait too long, before you come to see us again. I want our daughter to know both parents.”

“Me too.” Bo sniffed.

Bo turned and was about to leave, but something held him back. He stood in the doorway,
looking back at Diane, cuddling closely to their baby.

“What are you gonna call her?”

Diane looked up again at Bo. “I was thinking about calling her Sandra, after my mother, and I was also going to give her the name Lynn, after my younger sister… She passed away when she was only four.”

“Sandra Lynn Benson?” Bo asked.

“Sandra Lynn Duke.” Diane corrected “I want her to have your name. She is just as much a part of you as she is of me.”
Bo nodded “Thank you.”

Diane returned her attention back to the baby.
“Look after her for me.” Bo asked, “Make sure to tell her I love her, everyday.”
” I will.” Diane looked up and smiled, even though she could tell that Bo’s heart was breaking.

Bo finally left the room and maneuvered towards the elevators, while his infant daughter’s cries echoed down the hallway after him. After the elevator doors closed, the cries were cut off, and Bo was alone. At that moment, Bo felt as though his chest was going to collapse, instantly giving way into quiet sobs.

Six years later

“Mr. Duke, I’m sorry to have to tell you this” J. B. Carson frowned ” but the Bensons are going challenge you in court, for the custody of your daughter, Andy.”

“No!” Bo choked ” They can’t have her! Andy rightfully belongs with me. Diane wrote it in her will, she wanted me to take Andy if anythin’ were to happen to her.”

Mr. Carson rounded the large wooden desk of his office and sat on the corner of it, nearest to Bo. Bo had been summoned from North Carolina back to Atlanta, at the request of J. B. Carson’s law firm, concerning new developments over the custody of Andy Duke.

“Mr. Duke, I’m sorry” Carson shook his head “But I can’t stop them from going through with this. And Iwon’t lie to you either, the Bensons are a rather large and wealthy family, and they stand a very good and likely chance of winning.”

Bo felt himself begin to tremble with both fear and anger. Before continuing, Bo let out a big sigh, and stared at the wall where all of Mr. Carson’s degrees and certificates were displayed.

“Andy’s my own flesh ‘en blood.” Bo began, trying to keep collected “They can’t take my daughter from me. Over my dead body they will!”

With that, Bo hastily exited Carson’s office.

Mr. Carson had been handling the estate of the late Diane Benson, since her passing two months prior. Diane had developed a brain tumor, two years before, and had surgery to remove it. But several months later it returned, and this time, there was nothing anyone could do for her.

Bo had left Hazzard last fall, resuming his NASCAR career, and making frequent visits to Diane and their daughter, Sandra Lynn – who normally preferred to be called “Andy” by everyone. You see, like her father, Andy hated being called by her full name.
Anyway, following Diane’s passing, her will was read in front of the entire Benson family. This included Diane’s older brother Jimmy, and his wife Marilou, who very much disliked Bo Duke.

When it was learned by Diane’s family that Bo had full custody of six-year-old Andy, everyone immediately protested it. Bo, having still not told his family about his daughter, was on his own in this one. But if he had any chance at all in keeping his little girl, the truth would now have to be revealed.

Bo drove back to North Carolina right away. When he returned to the racetrack in Charlotte, Bo sought out the advice of his old mechanic friend, Bernie Whatts. Bernie was sort of a cross between Cooter and Uncle Jesse, a good mechanic with the heart of a good ol’ boy, yet wise and resourceful.

Bernie was over in a garage near the track, tuning up a stock car engine, when he saw Bo
approaching. Bernie put down his tools and went for the hand rag, stuffed in the back pocket of he grease-covered coveralls. Bernie mopped the sweat off his forehead before greeting Bo.

“Hey Bo!”
Bernie smiled at his young friend
“How did things go in Atlanta? Did y’all get back to see your kin?”

Bo shook his head. “No Bernie, I didn’t get the chance to…”

“That’s too bad” Bernie replied, picking up his tools again “You were really lookin’ forward to that. And tryin’ to get the chance to tell them about ‘You-know-who’.”
Bo nodded “I know. But somethin’ else came up, ‘en now I’m in big trouble.”

Bernie came back out from underneath the hood of his car and frowned

“Like what?” Bernie asked

“Diane’s family’s gonna take me to court over Andy…” Bo revealed “I spoke with Diane’s lawyer, yesterday afternoon, and he told me that the Bensons are likely to win and take Andy away from me.”

“Good Lord…” Bernie trailed off

“Now I really gotta tell my family.” Bo continued “I need their help, or else I ain’t go no one to help me win against Diane’s family. I really wish I didn’t have to fight them, for Andy’s sake, but they ain’t givin’ me much of a choice. ‘En I hope one day Andy understands that, but for now, I need to find me some back-up.”

Bernie looked Bo in the eye and could see the young man’s pain. The last couple of months had been difficult for Bo. He couldn’t race all that much, because of Andy, even though Bernie’s wife Naomi helped out a lot in looking after the little girl. But even so, everyone knew that being on the road in the NASCAR circuit was really no place for a child. Bo understood that if he were ever to continue raising Andy, he’d have to give up the circuit, and pursue something else with a little more stability.

And if everything were to work out with his family, like he hoped, then returning to Hazzard
would be Bo’s first choice.

“Well if it means anything,” Bernie began “You know the boys, Naomi, ‘en me are behind you. No matter what.”

Bo smiled a little “Thanks a lot, Bernie. I appreciate it.”

“We like that little girl too, you know” Bernie smiled as he continued “Not only does she make people ’round here laugh ‘en brighten up everyone’s day, she’s sure made a heck of a difference in you. And for the better, I mean.”

“She’s my whole life now, Bernie” Bo confessed “If I lost her, it would be like the end of the world.”
Bernie patted Bo on the shoulder “You’ll be alright, boy. You’ll see.”

Luke Duke was taking a long hot shower, relieving his aching muscles, as well as scrubbing the filthy soot that covered his hair and body. This was the life of a Smoke jumper. And although it required a lot of sweat, and often life-threatening situations, it gave Luke the satisfaction of saving a lot of lives as well as property and wildlife.

Luke had been with the GA Forestry service for close to a year. The work in itself was
rewarding, but he still missed Hazzard and his family, especially Bo.
He hadn’t heard from Bo in quite a while, as a matter of fact, and was becoming a little concerned. It was habitual for the boys to communicate on a regular basis, but lately, it was as if Bo was either too busy or even ignoring his older cousin; for reasons unknown to Luke.

Having finished with the shower, towel raped around his waist, Luke went to get dressed into his jeans and blue flannel shirt. Luke was finishing towel-drying his dark, curly hair, when the phone rang.

“Luke?” Bo’s voice called out on the other end.

Speak of the devil. Luke was both relieved, and upset, and wasted no time in giving his baby cousin a stern ‘What-for’. Luke sat down on the bed in his one-bedroom, bachelor apartment, and continued talking to his long-time-no-speak kin.

“I’m sorry I didn’t call, Luke.” Bo began “But I’ve been tied up lately with racing, ‘en what have you.”
“It’s okay Bo, just don’t ever scare me like that again!” Luke replied “I was almost gonna call Uncle Jesse, then you would be in even more trouble.”
“Well…”Bo’s voice trailed at the other end “That’s just it. Trouble. And right now, I’m in a lot of it.”
Luke frowned “What kind of trouble, cousin?”…

By the time Bo explained the whole story, beginning to end, Luke was flabbergasted. He was shocked beyond all recognition. Surprisingly, to Bo, Luke wasn’t as angry as he initially thought. Luke was actually very understanding, even sympathetic, and knew that he’d probably couldn’t have done any better if the roles were reversed. He also understood Bo’s reason for not having told Jesse, who was next on Bo’s agenda.

“You’re gonna have to come clean with him now, Bo” Luke advised “We already know he’ll be angry, but keepin’ it secret much longer might even get you disowned.”

“I know” Bo whimpered “But you know, as well as I do, that facing Jesse like this is like goin’ against all Ten Commandments.”
“Yep” Luke replied “But the longer you go on, not tellin’ him, the worse it’ll be.”
“I’m gonna call him, just as soon as I’m done talkin’ to you” Bo promised
“And in the meantime, I’m on my way up.” Luke informed “I ain’t about to let you face the Bensons alone like this.”
“Luke” Bo continued “Y’all don’t have to do this, just your support helps give me that much more strength. I can’t ask you to take all that time away from your job. Who knows how long this thing may last.”

“Quit being so modest, Bo.” Luke chuckled ” ‘En don’t be silly. You’re my cousin, my blood-kin, and I said I’m on my way. So you hush!”
“Yessir, Sergeant Lukas.” Bo laughed
“Besides,” Luke added, “Gives me an excuse to meet the newest member of the Duke clan.”
“Thanks, Luke.” Bo answered “I can’t wait for you to see Andy, either. She’s just beautiful.”
“I bet she is.” Luke agreed “But now I best let you get on with callin’ Jesse. So you take care ’til I get there, ya hear?”
“I will.” Bo replied “Thanks again, Luke.”
“No problem cuz, bye now.” Luke finished.

After hanging up with Luke, Bo took a deep breath, this was just the beginning.

“Operator, I’d like to make a direct call to Mr. Jesse Duke. Hazzard Georgia, 5920….”

Jimmy Benson was grinning ear to ear, like a Cheshire cat. His initial testimony alone put two strikes against Bo Duke’s credibility, and his ability to raise a child.
It had been one hope in a million but Luke and Jesse Duke were both present in the Atlanta courtroom, offering their support to Bo.

Although Jesse had been angry at first, the next couple of days following made Jesse comearound. In the end he realized that although what Bo did was the worst thing he could do, he also knew how tough it was for Bo to come forward with his secret. And Jesse knew he could never turn his back on any of his kids, no matter what they did.

Daisy, unfortunately, could not come to the hearing because she and her new husband had just moved out of Georgia. But she offered her prayers and love, just the same.

The Benson’s Lawyer, Mr. Grayson was delivering his findings to the judge, before the judge made his final ruling.

“Upon instigating my research of Mr. Duke’s background, I had made several interesting discoveries.” Mr. Grayson began “First is that the Duke family it’s self is not financially secure enough for the needs in raising a young child.”

At this point, Jesse Duke wanted to launch himself across the room, but Luke helped restrain the old patriarch. Jesse eased back onto the wooden bench and clenched his jaw in frustration.

“Wait your turn, Uncle Jesse” Luke said, “There will be plenty of time for us to tell our side.”
“That there lawyer is as spineless as jellyfish!” Uncle Jesse hissed
“I know that” Luke whispered, trying to avoid stares “But we’ll be no good to Bo if we get kicked out for interferin’, before our turn.”

Luke and Jesse returned their attention back to the courtroom. It was mostly filled with friends and family, come to support the Bensons. The rest of the small court room consisted of nosy spectators, who made daily careers of hanging around courthouses all day. Luke looked over at the hand full of strangers and shook his head.

“Vultures.” Luke muttered “Just hangin’ around, waitin’ to pick the meat off of what’s left.”

“Also,” Mr. Grayson continued ” In 1977 Mr. Duke, along with his cousin – Mr. Lukas K. Duke, was arrested for making and distributing illegal boot-leg whisky. I have a copy of the complete file here, and it goes on to say that both men were charged, brought to
trial, and subsequently sentenced to ten years in federal prison. The sentence was reduced, however, to probation when the Duke’s Uncle made a deal with the court never to produce or sell whisky again.”

There were hushed whispers and glances at the Dukes before the judge banged his gavel. Once silence was restored, Mr. Grayson continued.

“It might also be wise to inform the court that the Duke family have been brought up on numerous charges and violations within their own county.”

More hushed whispers and glances were directed towards the Dukes.

“Some of those charges include resisting arrest, evading arrest in a police pursuit, several counts of reckless driving, damage to county property … Everything including a mountain of unpaid traffic tickets.”

The judge divided his attention between writing down facts, and giving questioning glances to Bo, who sat opposite. Bo tried swallowing past the lump in his throat, tried not to look to
worried, but both attempts failed. Bo was being roasted alive, and both Jesse and Luke were growing more and more concerned with Bo’s color, with each passing moment.

It was time for Bo to deliver his defense on all the damaging evidence against him. He looked towards the judge before taking the stand, a man who looked larger than life, draped in his black  robes. Bo’s palms were sweaty, his eyes were wide as saucers, and his body was so tense that if a pin dropped he felt as if he would shatter like a pane of glass.

After what seemed like an hour of futility, Bo was excused, and the judge called a recess. Bo wondered if the judge would understand his side of the testimony. Bo poured his heart and soul into telling the story of his childhood on the farm, trying to explain that although the family didn’t have much money they had an abundance of love, which was worth a lot more. Bo also tried to explain the politics of Hazzard County, of how it was run by crooked Boss Hogg, and why it seemed the family was always in trouble.

Jesse and Luke even tried, with their own support, to convince the court that Bo wasn’t at all as bad as they thought. They both told stories of all the good things the Duke family had done for the people of Hazzard, be it a friend or a complete stranger.

But even after all that, the judge’s expression never wavered.

Court was now back in session, with the judge’s decision

“Before I proceed with my final ruling,” The judge began, ” I just want to make it clear that my judgement is based on what is best for the child, based on the testimony of both sides. There is no prejudice, against either party, that influenced this conclusion.”

Bo was visibly beginning to shake. Jesse leaned forward to steady his youngest nephew.

“Take it easy, boy.” Jesse whispered “What ever happens, we’ll get through it. I promise.”

Bo nodded slightly, keeping his eyes fixed on the judge, who sat high above everyone else.
Although Bo had been in a courtroom before, he couldn’t help the feeling of being over
shadowed by the authority of the man who held the gavel. He felt as if one false move would have been the end of his life, and so tried to be still and calm, even though he was a wreck.

“…Therefore, it is my decision that guardianship of the child, Sandra -Lynn Benson/Duke, be turned over to Mr. and Mrs. James Benson.”

Jimmy and his wife Marilou immediately jumped up and embraced each other, as the rest of the attending Benson family clapped and cheered. Jimmy and Marilou paused for a moment to hear the rest of what the judge had to say.

“…The child is therefore to be handed over, through social services, to the Bensons by noon tomorrow. This case is adjourned.”

The judge’s gavel dropped for the last time, sealing the fate of Bo’s daughter. Before exiting the room the judge gathered his briefcase, and looked straight at Bo, who had the look of a wounded animal on his face. Bo felt as though his heart had been tore out of his chest. He was so stunned, he couldn’t move at all. His body felt like dead weight.

The judge moved over to Bo for a moment.

“I’m sorry son. I know you probably don’t believe that, but all the same, I just wanted you to know.”

Bo barely glanced at him, the man who had simply and easily given away his child to the highest bidder, or so it seemed.

“One of the hardest things about being a judge” The judge continued “Is always having to see someone walk away empty handed. And in a case where children are concerned, it’s the child I feel sorry for the most.”

Seeing that Bo wasn’t at all interested, the judge took that opportunity to quietly leave the room.

Jimmy Benson walked over, adjusting his tie he’d worn for court.

“Well, Bo Duke, looks like we’ve seen the last of you. And don’t worry about Andy, we’ll take good care of her.” Jimmy grinned wickedly. “By the end of the week, she’ll have forgotten all about you.”

“Get out of here…”Bo replied in a hoarse voice “Just get the hell away from me, you no-good Son of a bitch!”

Jesse and Luke were taken aback at Bo’s sudden behavior. Luke moved forward in between Jimmy and Bo, before Bo did more than curse at the man.

“You got what you wanted, Mr. Benson” Luke sneered “Now kindly leave, before I have somethin’ more to say then just name callin’.”

With that, Jimmy rudely kissed his teeth at the Dukes, then escorted his wife out of the emptying courthouse.

That evening, social workers elbowed their way into the Duke farm, and carried a hysterical Andy out of the house like a bunch of merciless body snatchers. Bo had to be restrained, unwillingly by both Enos and Cletus, as they had been ordered to accompany the social workers; just incase any resistance was met. Which there had been.

Once again, the last thing Bo ever heard from his daughter was her echoing cries, as she was swept away into the night. Bo finally broke down sobbing as the social worker’s car disappeared from the farm.

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