Horses, Horses, Horses
Walt's and Cam's house was finished -- painted, draperies and curtains hung, rugs in place and furnished by five-thirty. Their phone was in and working as was the internet. When the tower was installed, the houses were all wired, as well as the school, library and dorm rooms at Boy's Camp. Alma called just as the crew was finishing and said they were having a cookout at the House and it would be ready by seven-thirty. “Hey, Louise, we have time for a beer run.” Josh invited the three teens to join them for the trip.
“Mighty expensive beer run,” Alex said.
“For friends like these, well worth the cost,” Josh said. “First, I’ll take the kids to see Sentinel Mountain,” and told Nelson, Cam and Jan to hop in.” As soon as they were aboard, Josh said, “OK, Walt let Alex take the co-pilot seat. Nelson, if you will come kneel between the seats and hang on, I'll show you Sentinel Rock.” Josh turned the plane until they were headed directly toward the rock and flew close enough for Nelson to ask if he didn't think they were close enough just before Josh pulled the nose of the plane up and and they flew up and over the rock.
“Wow,” Nelson said.
“Yes, wow,” Alex echoed.
Josh glanced back and saw Cam and Jan both trying to hide a disappointed look. Louise as well. “What's a few hundred dollars worth of fuel?” he thought. “Ok, Alex and Nelson, if you front-view-hogging passengers will swop seats and allow Jan and Cam to take your place. Louise, you are small enough to squeeze in beside me.” Josh swung the plane around after the two had replaced Alex and Nelson and approached the rock again.
As they drew near, Cam finally said, “Sir, Holy shit, Sir, I am too young to die,” just as Josh started a steep climb. As he did, Cam said, “Josh, Sir, may I say again, Sir, holy shit? Sir. When do we start flying lessons?”
Josh laughed and said, “Walt's in charge of that, but I'll warn you, there's a lot of book learning before you ever touch the controls and you're really going to have to push hard on getting up to speed in reading.”
“I will, I promise.”
Josh returned to the airstrip and deposited the three teens. As they left the plane, Walt leaned over to Josh and whispered, “Josh, you ever pull a stunt like that again, I'll kick your ass.”
“Fun though, wasn't it?”
“Hell yes. Cam's reaction alone was worth it, but do it again and I'll still kick your ass.”
They bought as much beer, soft drinks and juice as weight would allow, two cases of beer cold, and headed for the Mountain. Back at the House, Louise, Alex and Josh put a case of warm beer at the bottom of the ice chest and the cold ones and ice on top of it. Cam, Nelson and Jan iced down soft drinks and juice. Sally brought out pitchers of sweet and unsweetened ice tea and slices of lemon. She was followed by Alma who had chips, dips, tortilla chips and salsa. Those on the beer run hopped in the showers and got dressed. Louise had brought fresh clothes when she came and the rest had clothes, of course, in the House.
When they went outside, the others had arrived and had gotten drinks and were sitting around while Rob and Bob grilled steaks. “Alex, Nelson, you will not believe the beef. It is grass-fed and has no antibiotics or hormones. People say unless beef is grain fed, it's tough and stringy. Let me know what you think,” Bob said.
“Can you sell it?” Nelson asked. His father was a sheriff, but he was in cattle country where it took acres and acres to feed a herd and while Sentinel Mountain was large, it also had a lot going on and he wondered about the size of the herd,
“All we can produce at a premium price. We sell exclusively to a few fine dining restaurants.”
“How large is the herd? Fifteen or twenty head?”
“We just sold forty-five over the past three months. We'll have forty-five ready for market in three months, an equal number will be ready is six and nine. We try to have forty-five ready every three months and send fifteen to the slaughter house every month. Our cattle are Irish Dexters. They are small, much smaller than most beef cattle, a very hearty mountain breed, which has been around for a long time. They finish out in eighteen months with a great feed-to-dressed weight ratio.”
“How many thousand acres do you have here?”
“We have about four hundred fenced for the cattle station. We could run up to two head per acre, but we don't. Our four hundred acres is divided into eight sub-pastures and we would usually have a fourth herd, but right now we are giving the pastures a break and mowing them for hay for the winter. The four herds are rotated between sub-pastures.
“And they don't starve to death?” Nelson was incredulous.
“Nelson, did you notice the grass as we drove to Walt and Cam's place?” Bob asked.
“Yeah, but that wasn't pasture.”
“No, it's just grass, whatever comes up. It is not fertilized and cared for. The pastures are. Each pasture is subdivided and the cattle rotated,” Bob said. “Poor money in skinny cattle which have to be grain fed to fatten.”
“Yeah, I know, but given the ranches where I live, that's all you can raise.”
“Well, the judging's in the tasting. I know what all these folks want, but I'll take orders now Alex, Nelson.” They both went for medium rare at Josh's suggestion and were not sorry. Nelson had to admit the beef was fine eating.
After the meal, they all had coffee or iced tea, except Nelson who had another fruit juice, and broke up early. It had been a great day, but a tiring one. “Next,” Josh thought as he and Alex helped clear, “would be a house for the Masons.” Susan told Josh she thought she had found two which, with the addition of an apartment for Alma, would be perfect. Life on the Mountain was coming together and, best of all, Alex had totally fallen in love with the place.
As they walked into the bedroom, Josh and Alex said together, “Be sure the door's locked!”
Once again they undressed each other and crawled into bed. Alex wrapped his arms around Josh, “Beautiful Boy, there was never any question of your loving me, but if anyone needed proof, the fact that you were willing to give up this beautiful place and these wonderful people for me would leave absolutely no doubt. I have not been this happy since we were together those two summers in Boulder.”
“Neither have I. Had you decided you couldn't live here, I would have given it up, but I don't know but what it would always be something between us, in some way holding us apart, but we don't have to worry about that. I know emotionally you are happy and I am, but physically how are you?”
“Tired, but a good kind of tired.”
“Babe, you know we were warned about you getting overly tired.”
“Yeah, but it's a good kind of tired and I am stronger than I have been emotionally, but I guess we need to not push any limits tonight. Josh, you are never to fly at Sentinel Rock the way you did this afternoon. I was about ready to accept Cam's invitation for a holy shit. Promise!”
“Promise.” He kissed Alex tenderly and said, “You know, babe, now that you mention it, I am pretty tired myself, but Walt and Cam have a great place to live.”
The two exchanged kisses, Alex kissed each of Josh's nipples, curled up in his arms and was asleep in minutes. Josh lay awake thinking back over the day and what a wonderful day it had been, day one in his life with Alex on the Mountain.
Sunday breakfast at the House was a long-standing Mountain tradition. Jan showed up with her parents and Alex and Josh had a good laugh earlier about the circling dance that she and Nelson had gone through last evening, the ‘No, I'm not interested’ and ‘I really wasn't looking' dance. When Susan saw them approaching, she chuckled and said quietly, “Fifteen seconds before Nelson appears.” She was on the money.
The dance must have been over because Nelson walked over to Jan and gave her a peck on the cheek. Josh wondered if he should warn him about how far he went with Jan. He could see Rob hanging him by his balls from the barn's hay lift, but decided he wasn't the daddy and Nelson was on his own in that department.
He heard Jan ask him if he was going to church with her and the ball was definitely in the young man's court. He said he'd have to think about it and when he finished breakfast, he asked Josh if he could speak to him. They walked out to the front porch overlooking the meadow, bathed in the Sunday morning sunlight. “Josh, Jan has asked me to go to church with her.”
“Yes? What's the question?”
“I don't know whether I should or not. I've never been in anything except the meeting house and temple. I know I'm not supposed to go to another church.”
“Or take off your garment, fuck before marriage.”
“Well, yeah, but nobody knows about, well, about not wearing the garment. I still put them in the laundry.”
“I think all of Copper county knows you fucked your way through the cheerleader squad and a few others on the side.”
“Well, I'm not going to fuck Jan, just go to church with her.”
“Probably a wise choice,” Josh said. “I'm sure Rob won't mind you going to church with Jan, but before you decided to fuck her, take a look at Rob's upper arms.”
“Josh, I heard what you said about fucking, I really did. Besides, I never really enjoyed just being with a girl, I mean, I liked to fuck and sometimes, well, lots of times, I wish I had a hot cheerleader under me, but I heard what you said and I do enjoy just being with a girl. Well, maybe with some making out.”
“Well, I don't think you'll be doing that in church, but a kiss on the cheek would probably be all right.”
“Sure in church.”
“What kind of place is this church?”
“Can't really tell you. Only been once, but just expect something different.”
“A kiss on the cheek? Man, that would be new and different. Do I need to change clothes? I'm pretty casual.”
After Susan and Alma convinced Janie they could handle Sunday dinner, she took off and said she would be back late as today was all-day preaching and singing with dinner on the ground.”
“You're puttin' dinner on the ground?" Joshua piped up.
“It'll be dirty.” Alexander informed her.
Janie was at a complete loss trying to explain what she meant. Finally Susan said, “Janie, you can eat outside, but put the food on a table and not on the ground.” Janie agreed and all was well. She also agreed not to come back until Monday.
Jan came by to pick up Nelson in one of the Mountain's pick-ups. “The younger generation is not following the submissive trail their mothers did,” Josh thought. He saw Louise drive up the road in her open Jeep and in a few minutes, she passed in the other direction with Shane beside her, as if to confirm his conclusion.
Alex noticed as well and asked, “Alma, are Shane and Louise an item?”
“Not sure, but it sure looks like it.”
“Nothing would make Shane happier,” Josh said. “He has been in love with her for years. He thinks they’re going to make it and then she runs. The last time she ran, she ran into a real asshole.” Josh then told them about Louise's deputy sheriff. “Shane and James rescued her. After the sheriff left, Shane was comforting her and enjoying every minute of it and she definitely did not look brokenhearted over the loss of a fiance.”
Soon most of the Mountain's population had passed on their way to church. Josh, Alex and the Masons were having an after-breakfast coffee -- or in the case of the boys, juice -- when the phone rang. “Josh here.”
“Josh, Sally. We were exhausted, but had a good night's sleep. The drivers for the vans have sleeper cabs and one has been driving while one sleeps. I have been ready to bust them one for not stopping to give the horses a break and clean the trucks. Winston finally pulled two of them aside when we stopped for supper last night and told them we were stopping to give the horses a break or he was going to kick some ass.
“We found a paddock and had the horses all out for a couple hours while the vans were cleaned, fresh water and food put in and the drivers were really bitching. I called the company and reamed the guy who answered a new asshole before he could tell me was only an answering service. I did get connected to the owner very quickly. He was livid and told us to leave the horses in the paddock, get rooms at a motel on him and to put one of the drivers on the phone. He fired all four on the spot. Seems he had just hired them and they were running the horse vans like they hauled pig iron -- get there as fast as you can and get another load. They had been told how to treat the horses, how to make sure the vans were cleaned and all.
“He asked where we were and said he would have drivers here this morning. I just got a call from the airport and the four drivers will be here in half an hour. The horses seem in good shape and we should be pulling into Sentinel Mountain mid to late afternoon tomorrow.”
“Wish you had called earlier, Sally. I hate the three of you have been beat into the ground. But you three and the horses are ok?”
“Yeah. The owner also said one of us could use the sleeper cab since the drivers shouldn't be driving around the clock. So we should have one of us driving, one sleeping and one riding shotgun the rest of the way.”
“Good. The pastures are ready for the horses and you can stay over to get rested and I'll fly you back, if we can get you off the Mountain.”
“We're looking forward to a good time doing nothing.”
“We'll have an empty suite waiting with a big bed and a shower you won't believe.”
Josh told the others the news and that the horses would be arriving tomorrow. Too late, he remembered tomorrow was forever or the next ten minutes to very young children. Susan said, “We are going to be bombarded with 'Are they here yet?' until vans appear.”
“My horse coming, Uncle Josh?” Joshua asked.
“Black horses coming?” Alexander asked.
“When're they coming, Uncle Josh?”
Alex came to the rescue, at least a temporary one, when he said, “You have to go to sleep after it gets dark, then have breakfast and then lunch and then they will come after your nap.”
Two disappointed 'Ohs' came from disappointed mouths, then two deep sighs.
Sunday dinner was not an 'everyone expected' event like Sunday breakfast. Unless told otherwise, everyone was invited, but you had to let Janie know. After the workday Saturday and cookout last night, it was not surprising that only the 'in-house' group were planning on dinner. Nelson came by to say he had been invited to have dinner with the Johnsons. Cam and Walt had packed their things and taken them to their new place, but would be back for dinner, so it was a pretty quiet Sunday meal. Alex did have to remind the boys twice that it had to be night and morning and lunch and a nap before they could look for the horses.
After dinner, Josh asked Walt what he wanted to do about getting the rest of his stuff from Oakland. “Josh, I was thinking about a big yard sale, packing up the few things like pictures, that sort of thing, and clothes. Put the house in the hands of a real estate agent and hopping a plane back. I don’t need furniture or any household goods or I can pick them up here cheaper than shipping. Cam had the clothes on his back when I picked him up, so he has nothing there.”
“Think you might find a co-pilot in Asheville?”
“Been talking to the guy who owns the airfield in Crockett. He’s certified. He said he’d like to see the Golden Gate bridge before he died. He will be willing to fly out for free.”
“I’d be happy to have him use my place while he’s there unless I end up in San Francisco at the same time. He’d be in the middle of everything.”
“Think I could get everything wrapped up in a couple or three days and bring everything as I come.”
“When’d you like to leave?”
“Sooner the better. I’d like to put all that behind me.”
“Check with the Crockett guy and we’ll plan accordingly. Cam, you can stay here.”
“Fine. I love the house, but I don’t think I am ready to stay there by myself. It’s too quiet.”
“Well, I think I am going to take Mr. Alexander Bledsoe for a ride around the Mountain,” Josh said. They went to the garage, took the top off the Jeep and they headed up the valley away from the House, Boy's Camp and most of the houses and cottages of the residents.
Soon they were riding along lush pastures where herds of black, with a scattering of red and dun, cattle were grazing or lying under the shade of trees, chewing their cud. The fences ran along the stream running through the meadow. When Alex noticed watering tanks in each sub-pasture he asked Josh why the pasture didn’t just include the stream.
“The cattle would mess up the water. The water tanks are switched around because they'd soon sit in a mud puddle otherwise.”
After the pastures, the valley narrowed and the road started climbing until they reached the crest where they could look back and see the landing strip beyond the pastures. Between the pastures and the landing strip, Alex saw a waterfall. “Nice falls, I didn’t notice it when we passed.”
“I almost killed myself the first time I was here.” He then told Alex how he had almost driven over the falls. Louise saved my neck.”
“Now, Barefoot Boy, we are going to see Sentinel Rock.” They had crested the ridge and Alex saw the other two pastures and their herds in the valley ahead of them, but Josh turned up a road -- actually little more than a trail heading up the mountain -- which was very rough, with rocks poking out of the soil, and very steep with many switchbacks. The road finally reached the crest of the ridge and Josh drove along the trail to where it intersected another, much better one, which dropped below the crest, but was rising. After a mile, it started toward the crest and this time, when they reached it, a large, rock ledge lay in front of them. Josh stopped the Jeep, got out and walked around to Alex's side of the vehicle and took his hand. He led Alex out on the rock and as they walked, Alex saw that it protruded from the side of the mountain with the valley spread out below.
Josh was standing behind Alex, his arms around him, his chin resting on Alex’s shoulder. “Beloved,” Josh said, “you are standing on Sentinel Rock.” Alex turned his face to Josh and Josh eagerly covered his lover’s open mouth with his and their tongues brought each the taste of his lover, tastes both had feared they would never know again. As the kiss went on, Josh felt his hard cock against Alex's ass and began to fear. They were miles, difficult miles from the House. What if Alex had an attack? He broke the kiss, turned Alex to face him and looked deep into his eyes. “Alexander David Bledsoe, I love you more than anything in the whole wide world.”
Alex smiled, looked up at Josh and asked, “More than you love Sentinel Mountain?”
Josh grinned at him and said, “Of course, I love Sentinel Mountain because Alexander Bledsoe is here and wants to live here with me. Without you, I couldn’t love it as much as I do. I thought I loved it before and that it belonged to me but, Alex, it is you who makes it complete, makes me complete. I know it and the people of the Mountain know it. With you here, the Mountain will know the happiness that Elijah dreamed it might one day have. Tomorrow his ashes and his spirit will join Sam’s because you make the Mountain whole and his spirit is no longer needed to guard it.
Both men fell silent, deep in thought. Alex broke the silence when he whispered quietly, “It is our joined spirits that make it whole and it will make us whole.”
Jesse and Scott
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