"A few days after I got my acceptance and the notice about the tuition scholarship, I got a very official looking letter from Victoria House. The logo was a drawing of a large Victorian house with the words 'Victoria House' across the top and the motto underneath 'Student living in a wholesome family atmosphere.' It stated that since both my parents were deceased and had served honorably in the US military, Victoria House was happy to advise me I had been granted full room and board for the University of Colorado-Boulder Summer program, May 30-June 26 and July 4-31. A note added at the bottom said 'We hope you can return early enough July 4 to enjoy Boulder's fireworks.' I suspected Alex had gotten his grandmother to fake the letter, but learned it was on her official stationary."
I suddenly realized I had been talking forever and said, "I guess I'm going into too much detail here and telling you more than you want to hear."
said. "I really am interested. So,
did you get to go to Boulder?"
"I knew my grandparents were very tight with their money. We never lacked for anything, but there were precious few extras. As I said earlier, I was very surprised that granddad had bought Prince of Diamonds for me. I could have bought a decent used car for less, had I been old enough. Of course, I learned later, the money actually came from my dad's and mom's insurance. Most of it was in a trust fund from which a monthly allotment was supposed to pay for my living expenses -- clothing, room, board, school, allowance, everything -- a generous amount I found out later and certainly more than was spent on me. After high school, the monthly allowance would increase and my college expenses would be paid until I finished college or reached twenty-one. There was also some -- granddad only said a couple thousand -- mom, in a lucid moment, had specified was to be to be used for extras, 'for things you cannot afford to give him.' Anyway, the fact that they would have eight weeks without me -- for free -- was a very large talking point. When they learned if I could go the next summer, the credit I earned the second summer would count for high school and earn college credit, they gave the idea serious thought. Alex told me to point out if I did the summers, I could graduate high school at seventeen and have a really good crack at a decent scholarship at UC-Boulder. That sold them.
"The main thing they had against my going was the fact that I'd be spending so much time with Alex. I told them I would be living at Vic House -- as Victoria House was called -- and Alex would be living with his grandmother -- not a lie, but misleading I hoped!
"Mr. Bledsoe came over one evening and said since it was a pretty long trip, he didn't see the necessity of both families driving and offered to take me. 'Save you the expense and a long trip,' he said. 'We'll be leaving a couple days early so I can get in a visit with my mother.' That suited granddad.
"Grandma added that she still wasn't sure about this whole adventure. 'I believe those two boys spend entirely too much time together as it is.'
"'Well, you can be sure they won't have very much time together -- at least by themselves -- this summer,' Mr. Bledsoe laughed. 'The program will keep them very busy. They'll likely see more of the inside of a classroom and the library than anything else. When they are not in class or doing homework, there are many field trips and activities -- swimming, hiking, that sort of thing -- all in a group. The program is at least as strict as church camp,' he tossed in.
"Two weeks before school was out and before the program started in Boulder, granddad and grandma were waiting for me when I got home from school. 'Josh, we have talked at length about this summer and while we worry about you picking up some bad ways living in a college community at your age, we have decided to let you go. If after four weeks, you seem to be still on the right path, you can return for the second session.'
"I gave them a hug -- both mom and dad had been huggers, my grandparents were not -- and said, 'I think I'll go tell Prince. I'm going to really miss him.' Twenty minutes later, Prince and I were heading for the grove where we would meet Alex if he was out riding as I was sure he would be.
"When we reached the grove Alex was all excited. 'Josh, I have great news!'
"'So do I. Me first,' I practically shouted. 'Granddad and grandma have said I can go!'
"'Wow! That is great news,' Alex responded.
"'I then told him I was promised only the first four weeks since they were afraid I might stray from the straight and narrow.'
"'We'll just have to be very good boys the week we're back here.'
"'The only thing I hate is leaving Prince behind,' I said as I patted my horse on the neck.
"'That's my good news!' Alex was all excited again. 'Dad said we could take the horses! Gertrude says there's a place about four miles from Vic House where they can stay. I have a bike and Gertrude says there are bikes at the house students have left behind, so you can have one as well. Should take us about fifteen minutes to ride out.'
"That evening, Mr. Bledsoe came over again. 'Mrs. Williamson, Mr. Williamson,' he greeted my grandparents. 'I had a phone call from my mother this afternoon. Alex had talked to her about how he hated to leave Princess, his horse, behind and she has come up with a plan. A friend of hers, Mavis Baxter, runs a riding school just outside Boulder. She teaches trick riding as well as English and western riding. She also works in the summer program and is trying to get together a group of students who would be interested in learning trick riding. Alex is interested and I'm taking Princess down. Mom's friend said she would board the horses for the boys if you are willing to let Josh take Prince.' Of course that had to be discussed, but since the trick riding would be another group activity and well supervised, grandma agreed before granddad.
"When I asked what I needed to take, Alex said I'd need a decent pair of slacks, a button-down shirt, jeans, shorts and shirts. 'Tees are fine,' he said, 'and you have some good ones. See if you can get a couple or three polos as well. Oh, it can get cool at night and if we get to go to the mountains, you'll need a jacket. I'll make a list.' When he gave me the list, I said it was a list of things I needed and granddad said he guessed this came under the extras and said I should get what I needed 'so long as you are reasonable.' I added some nice, but not designer, things to my sparse wardrobe.
"I was ready to go days before we were to leave and when we learned the last day of school ended with lunch, Mr. Bledsoe was waiting at the school door as soon as the lunch bell rang and we were on our way before half the kids had reached the cafeteria. Mrs. Bledsoe had packed sandwiches so we could eat without stopping. We drove for six hours, stopping at a motel in Rawlins, Wyoming. Mr. Bledsoe had made arrangements for the horses and as soon as we were checked into the motel, we drove a couple miles to a stable where Alex and I took the horses out of the trailer, saddled them and rode along a bridle path behind the stable. Both horses were glad to be out of the trailer. We had reached the stable shortly before seven and rode for an hour, rubbed down the horses and went back to the motel to shower and dress for dinner.
"We went to bed right after dinner and were up early the next morning -- nothing unusual about that as it was our routine anyway. We went out to the stable, fed the horses and left their stalls open so they could have the run of a small paddock until we were ready to go. Back at the motel, we had breakfast, got our things together and went out and loaded the horses. We were on the road by eight. It was a four-hour drive to Boulder. Alex's grandma had told us to meet her at the riding school so we could leave the horses before going on into town.
"After we had the horses settled, we drove into Boulder and pulled up to a huge, old Victorian house, the one depicted on the logo for Victoria House. Gertrude -- Alex's grandma insisted on being called Gertrude -- showed us our room. It was in a turret up some stairs from the second floor, looking out on the tree tops. Round, it was huge compared to my room at my grandparents'. 'You can share the bed or you can take it down and bring up twin beds. Your choice.'
"I wanted to say, 'We'll share,' but remembered the stern talking-to the boys had received just a few Sundays ago about the evils of masturbation and how not sleeping with another boy was one way to overcome it. I had no intention of overcoming it, it felt too good to be bad, but I didn't want Gertrude or Mr. Bledsoe to get the wrong idea. I was definitely going to be a good Mormon, at least on the outside. My second four weeks away from Wellsburg depended on it.
"'Moving beds is not worth the trouble,' Alex said. 'Ok, if we share, Josh?' I nodded. Then he made my mouth fall open when he said, 'Hope you won't mind, but I sleep bare.'
"I blushed, Gertrude laughed and Mr. Bledsoe said, 'You'll not if it bothers Josh.'
"I just blushed again.
"The next four weeks flew by. Alex and I were up at six, rode out to care for our horses and were back for breakfast at seven-thirty and then got ready and biked to the college for the morning sessions. Sessions started at nine and were an hour and a half long. We had a half hour break between sessions. At twelve-thirty we walked from the classroom to the cafeteria as a group. We must have looked like an amoeba as we walked because people joined and left conversations so the configuration was always changing. The food, by the way, was surprisingly good and healthy.
"There was not a wide selection of choices for the sessions, basically, you could choose two from among science, math, English and social studies. Social studies was boring and easy at our school so both Alex and I decided we'd use it for a easy ride next year and do science and English. The science for our level was biology and English was composition. We did two, two-page essays a week -- sounds easy, but doing justice to a topic in two pages is a lot harder than bullshitting your way through ten pages.
"Afternoons varied. Our biology class had a lab and a field trip each week, one on Monday, the other on Wednesday. Tuesday afternoons we met with tutors to work on problems we were having with composition. My tutor was a graduate student, a beautiful young woman and had I been into girls, she would have kept me too hard to learn anything. I was doing well in both sessions, as was Alex, but we were also working our butts off.
"Unless we were on a field trip, we were free at three. Field trips could last until six or seven. Unless we were on a late field trip, we biked out to the riding school along with Jean Jean, a young woman from Denver, and Michelle, who was from Wyoming. They had their horses at the riding school as well, and the four of us had a trick riding lesson days we were not on field trips, got in some practice and then just rode until time to care for the horses and bike back to Boulder.
"Friday afternoons were reserved for group activities. These included hiking in the mountains, a picnic -- also in the mountains, and the last Friday, riding for those who rode. The four of us taking trick riding lessons put on a little show of the few tricks we had learned, but impressive for those who had not seen any trick riding.
"All of that was going on in connection with the program, but there were other things going on in my life. When we got ready for bed the first night, Alex kept his boxers on and I decided I better wear something as well although, as he announced he did, I ordinarily slept bare, so I kept on my boxer briefs. I realized that sharing the bed could be a big problem as I thought -- no, admitted -- that I was attracted to boys and especially attracted to Alex. He had turned his back to me as he got undressed and I did the same. As soon as we were down to our underwear, he snapped off the light and we both crawled into bed, making sure there was space between us.
"In the middle of the night a week later, Alex's groaning woke me and I realized he was spooned against me, his legs wrapped around my thigh, his hard cock rubbing against it. Suddenly I felt something hot and wet on my leg. Alex was having a wet dream! I quietly crawled out of bed and went to the bathroom on the second floor and washed my thigh. What was I to do?
"As if in answer, Alex came staggering into the bathroom, blushed and said, 'Sorry. Did I get you?'
"'Yeah, I think my thigh may be pregnant,' and we laughed. Back in our bedroom, we stripped the wet sheet from the bed, used the top sheet on the bed and covered ourselves with a blanket we found in the closet.
"Next morning, when we got back from caring for the horses and were having breakfast with Gertrude, Alex said, 'Gertrude, we need a clean sheet.'
"'Don't tell me you had a wet dream!'
"Alex blushed and said, 'Afraid so.'
"'Haven't you been told about masturbation?'
"'About how evil it is and how good Mormon boys don't do it and how to stop it if you do,' I added.
"'So you don't?' Gertrude asked.
"'Not for a couple days. Been too busy,' Alex said.
"'Well, you're doing your own laundry anyway. Sheets are in the second-floor closet.' I was absolutely thunderstruck at the conversation.
"As we were getting ready for bed the following night, Alex said, 'Josh, I guess since I have anointed you with my cum, we can forget the being modest bit. Ok with you, it's back to nature and I'll take care of things so I'll not anoint you again -- I hope.' I just grinned and stripped, crawled into bed, and held the sheet back, welcoming him and his bare ass into bed with me.
"After the lights were out, Alex asked, 'Josh, did you mean what you said, about jerking off being evil?'
"'My dad says there are two types of boys -- Mormons included -- when it comes to jerking off, those who do and those who lie about it.'
"I decided to be really brave and asked, 'Need to jerk off now?'
"'Yeah,' Alex responded.
"'Well, aren't we supposed to read a chapter from the Book of Mormon instead?'
"'That get you off?'
"I just laughed and asked, 'Got something to slick up our cocks and tissues or something?'
"Alex said he'd be back, pulled on his boxers and went downstairs, returning with two bunches of toilet paper and some hand cream. After we had done our business, I took the cum-soaked toilet paper downstairs and flushed it, and returned the hand cream to the medicine cabinet. Unfortunately, the hand cream was scented and we smelled of cum and flowers. 'We have to do something about the lube and tissue situation tomorrow,' I said as I crawled back in bed.
"The next day, on our way back from riding, we stopped by a drug store. I picked up a couple boxes of Kleenex and Alex and I were standing in front of the cream and lotion section, perplexed by the array of products. As we stood there, a sales assistant who was seventeen or eighteen walked up beside us, picked up a jar of Albolene Moisturizing Cleanser and handed it to Alex. 'Best for what you guys have in mind unless condoms are involved.' We both blushed and I was finally able to stammer, 'Thanks,' and took the jar from him. Later that night, we decided he knew what he was talking about and had made a good recommendation.
"Jerking off together became a nightly ritual which we both enjoyed. We liked watching the other stroke one off and tried new ways of doing it. I found I really enjoyed reversing my hand so my thumb and forefinger were next to my body and my other three fingers toward my cockhead. Alex sometimes jerked off by reaching under his leg. I laughed at him, but whatever felt good....
"The four weeks passed quickly and both Alex and I came away from our last sessions with a semester's credit in English and biology with As. We also were doing a few tricks on Prince and Princess who had taken to trick riding as if they had been bred for it. I could not believe how good life seemed as we prepared to leave for Wellsburg.
"Mr. Bledsoe was at the house when we got back from our ending session at ten -- we only had a summary of what we had done and were given our reports and a schedule for the second four weeks. He gave us both a hug -- Gertrude was a hugger as well and I really liked it, but knew it wouldn't be something I could expect from my grandparents.
"Mavis rode up on her Palomino as we were sitting down to lunch and accepted when Gertrude invited her to join us. 'I've had a busy morning,' she said, 'and had forgotten I needed to talk to you boys. I was afraid you'd already be on your way to Utah, but rode in anyway. I have an invitation for you. Some of my students will be riding in the Fourth of July parade -- just regular riders -- but I thought you two and Jean Jean and Michelle might do some trick riding. Nothing fancy, but anything will be a crowd pleaser. You're the only trick riding students I have who will be in town. You'd need to get back a day early so the four of you can work out what you want to do. Think you can do that?'
'Alex can if he wants to,' Mr. Bledsoe said.
"'It will be up to my grandparents,' I said. 'I've got a good report to take back and that should count for something.'
"'Would it help if I gave them a call?' Mavis asked.
"'I suppose they are good Mormons,' she said and I nodded. 'Well, horseback riding and caring for a horse is a good way to keep you focused and out of temptation's way,' she said and I wasn't sure if it was said tongue in cheek or not but, either way, it was a good point.
"Mr. Bledsoe hadn't brought the horse trailer and said he'd bring Prince home after the second four weeks whether or not I got to ride in the parade.
"Since I had been away for four weeks, there were many chores to do to catch up. Additionally, grandma had arranged several meetings for me with our bishop to make sure I was on track with my duties, responsibilities, and learning as a Mormon youth. I was exceedingly obedient, humble and polite -- a more correct word would be subservient -- because I knew the next four weeks, at the very least, depended upon it.
"We had left the horses in Boulder, so I didn't see Alex during the week. I sure missed him. We talked on the phone a couple times, but spending time on the phone with another boy was frowned upon. Of course, had it been a girl, it would have been frowned on as well. Talking on the phone allows for improper talk, grandma had observed when I asked if I could call Alex the third time.
"Mavis called Wednesday evening early and talked with granddad. Since they both could talk horses, she was immediately ok in his book. She stressed how honored he should be to have me asked to participate in the Boulder Fourth of July parade and asked if he didn't think riding and caring for a horse didn't make for a wholesome activity to keep a young boy's attention off of unwholesome things. He agreed. He did say he'd be happy for me to ride in the parade and even come a day early, except he wasn't up to such a long trip. Mavis told him three other of her students would be riding in the parade, Alex Bledsoe, she thought, was from around Wellsburg and maybe I could catch a ride with him.
"'Alex Bledsoe is riding as well?' granddad asked. 'Josh rode down with him for the first session.'
"'That had slipped my mind, I guess, in the midst of everything else. That's right. The two horses came in the same trailer. Well, Mr. Bledsoe is bringing Alex down, I think leaving Wellsburg around noon Friday. Think Josh could do that? Kinda short notice I know, but I'd sure like to see those black Mustangs in the parade. They're rare, you know.'
"'Sure are,' granddad said. 'They are the only two Jack has had in years. Gonna talk with the boys about maybe breeding Princess in a year or so. Well, I'm not sure Mrs. Williamson will like it, but Josh will be there. Be sure to get some pictures for us since we can't be present.'
"'You can depend on that,' Mavis said.
"Packing to return to Boulder took only a matter of minutes since I had brought little with me and had nothing new to take back. I finished my chores Thursday evening and went to bed when my grandparents did, which was early. I was also up early and got my chores out of the way and helped granddad with his. When we got back to the house, I showered and dressed before breakfast. It seemed the scripture reading, prayers and granddad's talk took a very, very long time, but breakfast and morning religious activities were finally over. I was ready to leave for Boulder and it was only ten.
"I brought my bag down from my room and as I sat it by the front door, granddad said, 'Josh, care to go for a little walk with me?' In my bones I knew something I didn't like was about to happen.
"'Sure, granddad,' I responded. He put on his hat -- he never left the house bareheaded -- and we headed out toward the barn.
"When we reached the corral, he said, 'Have a seat,' as he seated himself on the top rail. I sat down and waited for him to speak. He was silent for several minutes, then said, 'Josh, your grandmother and I are concerned about your seeming lack of real interest in your spiritual wellbeing. Our bishop was impressed by your behavior, but not by your lack of knowledge of the church and the teachings you should have at your fingertips at your age. I was as shocked as he was when he told me you had never been ordained deacon. I suppose so much was going on in your family at the time that it was neglected, but you should have known that and told us when you came here. It's important that you get a good education. Every Mormon is responsible for that, so this summer program is good, but when you return, you and I, under the guidance of the bishop and with the help of others, will make up for your lack of knowledge and prepare you for an ordination which should have taken place at twelve. There will be no question about that. You'll not have time for much of anything other than school and chores, but we must make up for our neglect of your training in the church.'
"I knew there was no way out of the path granddad described and I surely didn't want to argue and put my trip back to Boulder in jeopardy. To make sure granddad had no question about it, I said, 'The bishop gave me materials to read and study while I am in Boulder and I'll do that.'
"'Good boy,' granddad said. 'Now tell me about this trick riding you're doing.'
"I was glad we were on a safe subject and I talked about what I had learned and about how much I enjoyed it, 'even though it's hard work and I have earned a few bruises already.'
"'Toughen you up. Make a man of you,' granddad said and patted me on the shoulder.
"Grandma had suggested the Bledsoes come over for early lunch at eleven so we wouldn't have to stop on our way back to eat. Mr. Bledsoe planned to drive straight through this time and since we wouldn't be pulling the trailer -- we'd be in his car instead of his truck pulling a trailer with two horses -- we'd make much better time than we had on the way down before.
"Lunch was a pleasant affair, although grandma did some not-so-subtle quizzing of both Mr. and Mrs. Bledsoe as well as Alex. She was convinced they -- especially granddad -- were not strict enough on Alex and let them know that I would be spending a lot of time making up for my lack of proper education and preparing for an ordination I should have had when I turned twelve. Mrs. Bledsoe was shocked to learn of the deficiency in my upbringing and was in complete agreement with grandma about my future with no time for anything except school, chores and the church. She hinted that Alex would be in a similar situation. Mr. Bledsoe gave her a 'so you think' look."
of all, without a delightful month with S and G in Oz, Sentinel
would never have been. Fond memories remain.
One of the things that keeps an author looking good are editors. Two from opposite sides of the world worked on Sentinel Mountain.
Jesse from coastal North Carolina (a visit with Jesse inspired the setting for The Saga of the Elizabethton Tarheels) got first crack at Sentinel Mountain and paid special attention to my haphazard use of commas.
Scott from Australia has been editing since second or third chapter of A Special Place. Any polish that Sentinel Mountain has owes much to Scott who managed to edit the manuscript in spite of loss of a job--which he loved, paid the bills and gave him time to work for free--floods and typhoons.
mistakes are mine.
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