Sentinel Mountain

Chapter Sixty-three
Going Home

Josh and Alex had a ten to ten and a half hour drive to Wellsburg, so Josh and Alex were up at the crack of dawn, tossed their things in the truck and loaded the horses. Mavis had breakfast ready for them and they sat down to eat.

"Josh, I have been thinking about this horse deal. I know Sally will want to keep her breeding stock, so she probably would want to send stallions, which is fine, but they need to be gelded since young kids are going to be dealing with them. Mares are, almost always, a lot gentler and easier trained than stallions."

Alex laughed. "Yeah, generally, but we have a buckskin mare which can put any stallion to shame! Nelson Rogers is the best rider I have ever seen and he lasted less than a minute the first time he got on her. Then she selected her boy—Cam, Walt's grandson. He had never been on a horse and he saddled and rode her. It was and is absolutely amazing. Nelson, Josh and I have all ridden her since, but I think she has put all three of us on the ground. Josh got a dozen mares and a stallion from Sally's herd and we, well, primarily Nelson and I, have been training them. Nelson has taken a liking to the daughter of the manager and is teaching her and Cam how to ride. He is great with horses and as good a teacher as he is horseman."

"And how does the young lady feel about him?"

Josh laughed. "His dad is one of the two sheriffs involved in the New Beginnings raid. He's a pretty rough and tumble guy as you can imagine a sheriff in southern Utah would be and he worried that his son was gay. Inadvertently, Nelson announced how he liked fucking women to the whole raiding crew, including his dad, and it came out later that he had fucked every member of the cheerleading team and all of the football players' girls who weren't on the squad. I gave him a talking to about using women and he seems to have mended his ways, but he also noted, as I suggested, the size of her dad's arms. He says he and she are best friends, something he never had before, and I believe him. Maybe something more will develop. He is a hell of a kid if he can keep it in his pants."

"And he's on the Mountain? Gertrude asked.

"Yes, he felt hemmed in at home. Apparently his mom is a constant nag and he saw nothing except dead ends. He leaped at the chance to get away. He's finishing some community college courses online and will continue to work online this fall semester, but I want him on campus some next semester. The only problem is it will involve a thirty-mile trip each way."

"Still, it sounds like he's lucky."

"He is and he knows it," Alex said. "Josh, I have wondered about Nelson, not just that he fucked a lot of women, girls, but who he fucked. I think it was his way of getting his revenge for all the hurt the jocks gave him. Gertrude, his dad wasn't the only one that thought he was gay. He was pretty much shunned by the jocks who called him faggot. That hurt, but I guess it hurt them more when they discovered they weren't giving their girls all they wanted and Nelson the faggot helped them out."

"Reasonable theory, whether or not it's true."

"Well, Barefoot Boy, we must be on our way. Thanks for everything, Mavis, Gertrude. We'll expect to see you within the coming month at the latest." After hugs all around, they headed toward Wellsburg, the last place on earth either of the men wanted to be.

It was not quite noon when the stopped in Rawlins, Wyoming. They put the horses in the paddock where they had been on their trips from Wellsburg to Boulder and had lunch. During lunch, Alex suggested they leave the two horses in the paddock until they returned. "It will save the Royal Couple trailer time and we will make better time with an empty trailer."

"Smart thinking, my Beautiful Lover," Josh said.

They were back on the road before one thirty. They pulled into Sally's place a few minutes before six, two exhausted travelers, both practically dead on their feet. They went inside and Sally brought cups of coffee. "So, what happened with Jack?" Josh asked.

"Well, Mark and I went over this afternoon and he again refused to release the horses. While we were waiting for Jack to come out, Bud Phillips walked up. He asked if we were buying horses from Jack and Mark told him we were picking up some that Jack was keeping for someone. When Jack came out, Bud was still standing there and when Jack refused to release the horse, Bud took the authorization fax from him and looked it over. 'Jack, this looks fine to me. What's the problem?' He handed the fax to Mark and asked 'See anything wrong with this, lawyer?' Mark looked it over as if he had never seen it before and said, 'Looks all pretty and legal to me.' Jack said, 'Now, Bud, you know we are dealing with a Gentile and an excommunicated LDS person here. I don't trust either and I'll release the horses to Josh and no one else.' Bud looked embarrassed and said, "Jack, you're wrong and because someone is a Gentile or excommunicate doesn't give you the right to withhold what's theirs." Mark and I left the two arguing, but Bud is a bishop, well-liked and respected in the community and witnessed Jack saying he'd release the horses to you."

"Well, we'll see in the morning."

Josh called and located stables where he could overnight the horses in Cheyenne and he and Alex fell into bed. Josh was tired and knew Alex was exhausted. Maybe they were going to have to shorten the distance between stops. When he mentioned that to Alex he said he thought the tension he was feeling being back in Wellsburg was as big a factor as the trip itself. Josh hadn't thought of that, but when he did, agreed.

Next morning at breakfast he asked, "Sally, how long would it take you to get twelve horses, mares or geldings broke to the saddle?"

"We have six mares now broken to saddle and two geldings. So I don't know. Just broke will take, I guess two to three months. All twelve should be well-trained and well behaved by Christmas. Why?"

"Senhor D'Cruz left Mavis his place in exchange for her keeping Meu Rei until his death. She plans on expanding the school and wants horses she can train for trick riding. I told her I would give her twelve provided she named her place the D'Cruz Riding Academy and Fazenda. I'll make a deal with you. You get her a dozen good-looking mares and/or geldings well-broken to saddle and well-behaved by Christmas and deliver them to Mavis, and this ranch is yours, free and clear. I'll will also, as I said, make you a low interest loan to go ahead with building another house on the Bledsoe place. I'll keep my promise to pay for your dream house. I have no interest in ever seeing Wellsburg again and Alex and I were both worn out last night and while we had a long drive, he said, and I agree, a major part of that was from tension coming back to this place. I know beyond the shadow of a doubt as long as I own property here, I will have to come back for one reason or another. You seem to be doing ok here and I know you like the place, so is it a deal?"

"Josh, a dozen horses are worth half what the ranch is and a low interest loan is also worth a lot."

"Maybe the ranch is worth more, but it's worth less than nothing to me. Oh, one more stipulation. The Bledsoe place is to be named the Alex Bledsoe Rancho. Is it a deal?"

"Damn! That will set some teeth on edge! And this place will be the Josh Taylor Fazenda! It's a deal!

"We have had an architect working on plans for our house. We planned to start building in a couple weeks so it would be closed in before the weather gets too bad to work."

"I'll open an account in North Carolina and you'll have a credit card with the balance paid out of the account automatically. I'll put ten thousand in immediately and have an order against my account to put nine thousand in when the balance drops to a thousand."

Both Sally and Brenda gave him a hug and gave Alex one as well.

After breakfast, they l headed for Jack's place, not knowing what to expect. It was eight thirty when they arrived. Alex backed the trailer up to a corral gate just as Mark Jenkins drove up. Jack came out and said, "Morning, Josh. You are out early."

"Yeah, it's a long way to Sentinel Mountain, North Carolina. Wanted to get the twins and get started."

"Well, we need to talk about the twins," Jack said. "They've been here awhile now."

"They have. Too long to my way of thinking," Josh said, "but I have been kind of busy. I guess the stud fees you had from Prince more than paid for their keep, but keep the excess."

"Well, now, I'm not sure there is any excess, more like a couple thousand short. Can't release the horses until that bill is settled."

Josh was steaming. Alex was afraid he was going to blow up and make matters worse, maybe even keep them stuck in Wellsburg. "Jack, they are his horses, right?"

"Yeah, but there a bill for keeping them," he answered.

"I am Josh's accountant," Josh looked at Alex open mouthed, "so if you'll just show me the accounts for stud fees and keeping the horses, we'll be happy to settle up."

"I'd like to see those as well, Jack," Mark said. "I got a monthly statement from you and last month's showed the stud fees were still well in excess of the charge for keeping the twins. You didn't mention that yesterday when Sally came for the horses. You just said you'd only release them to Josh."

"Well, I didn't think the accounts were any of her affair."

"Even when she had authorization from Josh to take the horses?"

"How could I be sure it was really from Josh? Anyone can send a fax." Jack was facing the corral and he hadn't seen Bud walking up behind him. He was startled when Bud said, "I'd like to see the accounts as well, Jack."

Jack knew he was trapped and said, "Take the damn horses. Good goddamn riddance!"

"I still want to see the accounts, Jack. A person in your position must be above reproach," Bud said.

"Go to hell every fucking one of you. Get the goddamn horses and leave." Bud looked stunned at such coming out of the mouth of Mormon, much less that of a stake president.

Bud apologized and assured all of them this matter would be taken up by the Council. Josh thanked him and said he didn't care and with that he took off his shoes and knocked them against the corral fence. Alex realized what he was doing and followed suit. "I have shaken the dust of Wellsburg from my feet as testimony against the hate-filled and hypocritical people here. Mr. Phillips, you are my witness."

"Josh, I can understand your bitterness, and yours as well, Alex, but we are not all bad."

"Of course not," Josh said, "but unfortunately, I knew few who were not. Thanks for your help, Mr. Phillips." He shook hands with Bud and Mark and, as he shook Mark's hand he said, "Mark, Sally will give you the details, but draw up an agreement transferring the ranch to her. We are on our way as soon as we can get the colts loaded." They loaded the colts and headed out. It was quarter after nine when they left and they had a seven and half to eight hour drive to Cheyenne.

After the morning, they were glad to get on the road. As they headed away from Wellsburg, Alex said, "I can feel the weight lifting." Josh agreed. They stopped in Rawlins for lunch, and loaded the Royal Couple. There was much whinnying and carrying on as the horses recognized each other. Back on the road in less than an hour, Alex drove and they made very good time. They took a break after being on the road three hours and Josh took over the driving.

They pulled into the livery stable in Cheyenne where the horses would spend the night, unloaded them, gave all four a good brushing, fresh water and grain. They cleaned the trailer and replaced the straw before checking in at the motel. As they checked in, Josh asked about a good restaurant and the desk clerk laughed. "You don't have a lot to choose from. Cowboys just want to make sure the whiskey isn't watered and the meat's near raw. I guess your best bet is Avanti Ristorante Italiano unless you don't like Italian food. Would you like for me to make reservations?"

"Please," Josh answered, "It's seven. Make them for eight thirty." Upstairs they showered—separately since there was no way the two big guys could fit in a bathtub shower—dressed, and went to the Avanti for dinner.

Back in the room, even as tired as they were, making out quickly became heavy making out, which became an enjoyable a sixty-nine. When even Helen had to admit there was little or no danger, the condoms for that were a thing of the past. Both still wore one when he entered his lover.

Josh had suggested they have an easy day Tuesday, but Alex wanted to get home. "Besides," he said, "let's wait and take it easy when there is something to see. Maybe we can even find a place to ride." So they had breakfast and went to get the horses. They were glad to see them, but not so happy about being loaded in the trailer. Josh and Alex could appreciate their reluctance, but horses loaded, they climbed in the truck and headed to Lincoln. They stopped in North Platt for lunch and were back on the road before one. About an hour outside Lincoln, Alex said, "Josh, it's early. Let's push on. We can make Council Bluffs before we stop. I'll drive and you cancel the stables in Lincoln and find something in Council Bluffs."

"Are you sure? We have been pushing pretty hard."

"Yeah, I'm sure."

Josh pulled over and they switched drivers. Canceling the reservations in Lincoln was easy although he just got in under the wire before they would have had to pay anyway. It seemed that the idea that they'd find a place in Council Bluffs was wishful thinking. A fellow finally suggested Josh contact a riding school, which he did, and the owner agreed to put the horses and the guys up for the night. When they arrived, they were welcomed by an elderly man, Mr. Hayden Saunders. They introduced themselves and he said he had a small pasture and stable which had not been used in over a year. "I operated a riding school until I closed it a year ago and retired. I sold all the horses except Champion, my own horse. I understand you are carrying four."

"Yes, Prince and Princess, our horses, and their unnamed twins," Alex said. Josh and Alex opened the trailer and led out the colts and then Prince and Princess. The four horses were very happy to be out of the trailer and loose in the pasture. "I know how they feel," Alex said.

"Beautiful animals," Mr. Saunders said. "I am not sure I recognize the breed."

"They're American Mustangs," Josh said. "Both the parents are actually captures. Alex and I thought they were brother and sister, but learned they had been captured hundreds of miles apart."

"Can you recommend a place to eat?" Josh asked. "We would be delighted to have you join us."

"I thought you might just enjoy relaxing and having a meal here. I am a lousy cook, but I have a housekeeper who comes in three times a week. She was here today and when I learned you were coming, I had her prepare a supper. Nothing special, but I assure you a good meal."

"You are too kind," Alex said.

"Think nothing of it. An old man gets lonely and seldom has company. I take advantage of any opportunity I get. Pity it is so late or we could get a ride in."

How about an early morning one?" Alex asked.

"I would love that."

In the house, the two showered and got dressed in fresh clothes and went downstairs. "I like a glass of wine before dinner," Mr. Saunders said. "Will you join me?"

"Most willingly," Josh answered.

After a glass of more than decent wine accompanied by a tart apple and Stilton, they sat down to a dinner of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans and hot biscuits. "Mrs. Martinez, my housekeeper, had the biscuits ready for the oven so they would be hot."

"Mrs. Martinez is a jewel," Alex said.

Mr. Saunders laughed. "She is that, but definitely a diamond in the rough. She ran a boarding house in Lincoln for many moons and could out-cuss and out-arm wrestle any cowboy that showed up."

When Alex and Josh got in bed, Josh could tell Alex was close to exhaustion. He claimed, of course, he was ok and, from a quick glance, he was, but he still did not have the strength and stamina he would regain eventually. Josh was prepared to put his foot down and make sure the next day was a short one.

"Beloved, I believe I pushed beyond where I should have today," Alex said.

"I was trying to come up with an easy way of saying that. Tomorrow we will make it a short day, or even go to ground for a day. I am tired myself and we don't have to be on the Mountain at a certain time."

"I want to be home," Alex said. "So much has happened, I just want to be home."

"I know. How about we get up in the morning at seven, as Mr. Saunders suggested. Grab a cup of coffee—and you some of Cândido's tea which you have not been drinking—and go for a ride, say for an hour, have breakfast, and leave by ten. We can be in Columbia, Missouri by four, four thirty for an early night. Maybe we can find a place again where we can let the horses out and maybe even ride."

"Sounds workable."

Josh got on the phone and soon located a horse boarding stable which would be happy to have their horses overnight and did have a short bridle trail. "It's a loop," Miss Kates who answered the phone told them, "about three quarters of a mile. I ride it around until the horse has enough exercise." Josh made reservations for the following night.

Next morning they had coffee and Alex some of his tea before they saddled the horses and went for a ride. Mr. Saunders led them along a path under tall old trees. They rode for an hour. Mr. Saunders prepared breakfast and they ate and were ready to leave. Josh took out his wallet to pay Mr. Saunders, but he pushed Josh's hand away. "I have enjoyed having you as my guests. Indeed, I did."

The day's travel was uneventful and they did arrive in Columbia early enough for a ride. Whereas Mr. Saunders was a gracious host, Mrs. Kates was all business. They drove half an hour back into town to their motel, showered and dressed and went out to eat. The desk clerk had recommended a restaurant and must have been getting a kickback or was not fond of food. The food wasn't terrible, but it didn't rate 'good' either.

Next morning they had a continental breakfast at the motel and drove out to pick up the horses. Mrs. Kates had agreed to have a stable hand clean the trailer and put in fresh straw, fresh water and some grain. He did a half-assed job at best. Josh make a point of letting her know he had done such a bum job he and Alex had to do 'do overs'. "I know. You just can't get good help these days," she said. Josh would have had a 'come to Jesus' with her, but he decided he'd rather spend the time on the way. As they were walking out to the pasture, Alex suggested they skip riding the merry-go-round. Josh agreed. The horses were loaded and they were on their way by eight. They had motel and stable reservations in Lexington for that night and it was about eight hours' driving time away.

They took a break in St. Louis. Josh had been looking at the map and decided they better do something about lunch as there was a whole lot of nothing between St. Louis and the next likely place for decent food. They found a deli and had sandwiches made. While Alex was awaiting on them, Josh went across the street and purchased ice for their cooler. They put the sandwiches and some drinks in the cooler and headed for Lexington. Lexington was in horse country and Josh had no trouble locating a stable for overnighting the horses. At Alex's insistence they had not stopped for lunch, and only took a break at a highway rest stop. They arrived at the stable before five, tired, but like horses headed for the barn, they were going home. After caring for the horses, the had dinner and were in bed shortly after seven, too tired for much lovemaking, and were asleep before eight.

Next morning, they debated their route. The most direct route was over pretty rough and winding roads, or they could take a more roundabout route which meant they would be on Interstate highway almost all the way. The Interstate route in theory took half an hour or so longer according to the map, but both doubted it since the other involved very crooked roads and small towns, maybe fine for an automobile, but a large truck pulling a four-horse trailer was something else all together. They chose the Interstate. Since they had gone to bed early, they expected to wake up early, but it was eight thirty when Alex kissed Josh awake. They quickly showered, got dressed, had breakfast at the motel and went to load the horses. It was after nine thirty when they got on the road. At twelve, they stopped in Knoxville for lunch and didn't get back on the road until one thirty. They finally pulled into Sentinel Mountain at five thirty, glad to be home.

They were met by Nelson and Rob, who helped get the horses unloaded, groomed, and into stalls with fresh water and grain. Nelson insisted they go on to the House and clean up while he cleaned the trailer and parked it and the truck. Their objections were noticeably weak. Rob said since they had called and said they would be in Thursday, Janie had suggested they pull out all the stops for a big party for the Friday night get together and there were no objections. Josh and Alex were home!

This is the end of  Sentinel Mountain. The story may continue someday, or maybe not— after all, the only way a story can deal with all loose ends is to kill off everyone, because life always has loose ends until then.

~ Sequoyah