PORTER RANCH - PART ONE
Sean reined the horses and stopped the wagon beside the depot's
freight dock just in time, for he could hear the whistle of the twelve
o'clock train approaching the town limits. The station agent walked out
onto the platform and checked his time piece. He glanced up as he heard
Sean's boots thud on the dusty wooden boards.
"Mornin' Sean. You expecting mail today?"
"Hiya Ezra. Yeah, and some freight too."
Presently, great plumes of black smoke and white steam shot skyward
behind the trees at the end of the street. As the engineer blew the
whistle, warning man, dog and horse of the train's approach, the
black behemoth came into view and clattered to a screeching stop in
front of the Santa Paula depot. A small boy ran to the mail car
heavy canvas bag and exchanged it for one heaved down to him. Sean ambled
down to the freight car and helped the attendant load two crates onto a
dolly and wheel it over to his wagon.
"All aboard!" the conductor yelled. The engineer rang the bell, blew
the whistle and the engine began to move, heaving billows of steam from its
cylinders. As the train pulled out of the station, a
lone passenger stood on the platform with the station agent. Hesitantly,
the figure approached the agent and spoke to him.
business concluded, Sean was climbing into the wagon, but at the sound of
his name, he jumped down and walked toward the platform. "You
got any need for another hand?" the agent asked. "This young feller's
lookin' for work."
Sean snickered. "I've always got a need for more help." As Sean
approached, he raked the boy
with his eyes. He was big enough to wrangle cattle, but he was dressed
in a fine linen high-collared shirt with a silk cravat around his neck, black wool
pants and highly polished black boots. A black felt hat with a flat
crown sat atop his head and a black wool frock coat was neatly
folded over his arm. Beside him was a large finely-woven valise with
handles. All that spelled "money" to Sean. He wondered, why the hell a
rich kid was
seeking work as an ordinary cowboy in this one horse town? Chances are
he'd never roped a cow in his life. However, common courtesy demanded
that he proceed with the interview.
Sean smiled and extended his hand. "Good afternoon. I'm Sean O'Connor."
The young man quickly removed his hat and smiled. On close inspection,
he saw that the boy was Hispanic with bright blue
eyes and finely chiseled features, that indicated pure Spanish blood. He
had dark wavy hair with sparkling highlights in the noon-day sun, a
complexion and dazzling white teeth. This was truly a
handsome young man.
My name is Nicholas de los Santos Ontiveros. It is a pleasure to meet you Señor
O'Conner." He gave Sean a firm handshake with
a calloused palm. His knuckles were scarred and his fingernails ragged.
Sean menatlly altered his first impression. This boy had worked and
worked hard. But where?
"I'm a cattle rancher. What ranch experience do you have?"
"I was trained from birth as a vaquero
"As a cowboy, on your father's ranch?"
, on my father's rancho
"How old are you Nicholas?" Sean asked mildly.
"I am fifteen señor
"Do you have your father's leave?"
"Do you have your father's permission to seek your own fortune?" Sean
pressed. The boy's dress, bearing and manners indicated that he came
from one of the old families, the recipient of a Mexican land
grant. Those enormous ranchos
were gradually being broken up, since California
joined the United States in 1850. That was only twenty-five years
ago, but the Yankee invasion of Southern California had had a devastating effect on the Californio
way of life. However, the ranchos
that still existed
were led by families that wielded unbelievable economic and
political power. He didn't want to hire the runaway scion of a Don
and suffer the father's wrath when he found the boy.
Nicholas looked down for the blink of an eye, then straight at Sean.
. I have my father's permission to work away
from his rancho
Sean decided to take him at his word and smiled at the lad. "Very well,
would you be willing to come out to the ranch and show me how good of a
cowboy you are?"
"I would be most happy to do so," Nicholas beamed a dazzling smile.
Sean stopped first at the Post Office to pick up the mail. When they climbed
into the wagon, he handed Nicholas the reins. "Here. You drive while
I look at the mail."
Nicholas smirked, knowing he was being tested. "Which way Señor
Sean pointed. "East. The road out of town for about three miles." The
wheels of the wagon began to turn. "And please call me Sean."
Nicholas looked scandalized. "Oh, but it would not be proper for me to speak to the owner of a rancho
with such familiarity."
Sean laughed. "But, I'm not the owner. I'm the foreman."
Nicholas knitted his brows searching for a translation, then smiled.
"Ah, the capataz
. You have much power at the rancho
. Are you certain
that you wish me to address you by your first name?"
"Nicholas, if you want to work on a Yankee ranch, you're going to
have to learn our ways. Ours is a small spread. We are very informal
and work together as a team."
"How large is the rancho
"It's only about 2,000 acres, so it's not a big operation. And we have
trouble keeping good help. The economy around here is changing. The
railroad was just built through this area and it pays its employees
more than we can afford. Not only that, they struck oil not far from
here last year, and the oil company pays better than we do too."
"May I know the name of the patròn
... Sean?" Nicholas asked, with a cheeky grin, enjoying the familiarity with his prospective boss.
"His name is Jacob Porter, and he will ask you to call him Jake." Sean
finished with an equally cheeky grin, knowing that it would throw the
boy's mind into a quandary. While Nicholas agonized over the
possibility of exercising so much familiarity with his employer, Sean
studied the young man's handling of the team of horses. He was doing
well, keeping them at a good pace without tiring them.
"Sean, please do not take offense, but you are very young for a man who holds so much power."
Sean chuckled. "No offense taken. It's a long story, but I inherited
the foreman's job from my father. I was born to it." Nicholas nodded
his head, understanding. "You speak English very well Nicholas."
"Yes, my father said that since we were citizens of the United States that we must learn the Yankee language."
the hour, they turned off the road and passed through the gate
of Porter Ranch. A quarter mile further, the wagon circled the modest main
house and passed the large collection of out buildings into an adjacent pasture. Sean
directed them down a low rise where
they could see men branding a small heard of cattle. They stopped a
hundred feet or so from the operation.
Sean pointed to a man on horseback. "That's Jake."
Nicholas' face became a mask of disbelief. "But he is so young to be the owner."
"He's the same age as me. Twenty-two. He inherited the spread when his
father died last year." He cupped his mouth with his hands. "Hey Jake!"
he yelled, attracting the man's attention. Jake turned his horse and
trotted toward them. He was a blond-haired blue-eyed mirror to Sean's
black hair and black eyes. Otherwise, they both had fair skins and
medium builds. Jake reined his horse beside the wagon. "Jake, this is
Nicholas Ontiveros. I picked him up at the depot. He's looking for
work. Says he's trained as a cowboy."
Smiling, Jake leaned over in the saddle and extended his hand. "Pleased
to meet you Nicholas. We can always use another good cowboy."
Grasping Jake's hand with a slight bow and downcast eyes. Nicholas said, "I am very pleased to meet you Señor
"Call me Jake. We're kind of informal around here." Sean gave Nicholas a knowing look.
Slapping the boy's knee, Sean said, "How about if we call you Nick?" The
young man smiled and nodded. "Okay Nick, show us what you can do with a
and a horse. Jake will let you ride Nubbins.
Nick indicated what he was wearing. "These are my traveling clothes. May I be permitted to change into my work clothing?"
"Sure," Sean said.
Moving to the back of the wagon, Nick sat down on
one of the crates and began to undress. He removed his cravat and
boots, shrugged off his suspenders and pulled his shirt over his head,
then stood up and removed his trousers. On seeing him naked, it was
apparent to Sean and Jake that the boy had worked hard in his lifetime.
He was heavily muscled and evenly proportioned with some scarring on his knees and elbows. It was doubtful that
one would find an ounce of fat on his body. It was also obvious that he
was a man. Fine dark hair covered his arms and legs. There was a fine
dusting of dark fur between his nipples, and a thatch of black curls
crowned his genitals. Nick and Sean exchanged a glance. Yes, he was a
fine specimen of young virile manhood.
donned a pair of undyed cotton pants that he cinched up with a
cracked leather belt, then pulled a worn cotton shirt over his head. He
tied a sheathed knife to his belt and draped a long leather thong about his
With those items and a scuffed pair of boots and battered felt hat, he had
transformed himself from
a dandy into a working man. Rummaging further in the valise, he
extracted a reata
and a pair of spurs
He turned to Jake. "I have never used a hemp rope. May I be permitted to use my reata
?" he asked, jumping to the ground.
dismounted and handed him the reins to his horse. "Sure. But you won't
need the spurs. Nubbins works well without them." He turned to gaze
across the pasture. Jake
pointed to a calf that had strayed away from the herd. "Try your reata
on that one there."
Smiling, Nick mounted Nubbins. He tied the end of the reata
to the saddle horn and placed the leather thong between his teeth. He
made a clicking sound with his tongue and cheek and Nubbins trotted off
toward the wayward bovine. Jake climbed into the wagon with Sean, the
better to see the boy work. A young redheaded man ran up to the wagon.
"Hey Jake, why is a Mexican riding Nubbins?"
Sean answered for his employer without taking his eyes off Nick. "First off
Rusty, he's not a Mexican; he's a citizen of the United States. And he
wants a job, so he's showing us what he can do."
Rusty squinted up at Jake in the bright afternoon sun. "But this is a Yankee ranch. You gonna hire him?"
"Rusty, I don't care what he is as long as he can wrangle cattle and is
willing to work for the wages I can pay him." He nodded toward Nick and
smiled down at the young cowboy. "Let's watch and see what he can do."
The calf spied Nick bearing down on him and ran toward the herd. Swinging the reata
his head, the boy touched the reins lightly to
Nubbins' neck and the horse cut sharply in front of the calf.
Anticipating its next move, Nick reined in the opposite direction and
Nubbins cut in front of the calf again. Thoroughly spooked, it bolted
in the opposite direction, away from the herd. Nick clutched
Nubbins' sides lightly with his legs and the horse broke into a dead
run after the terrified bovine.
Rusty whistled through his teeth. "Look at that little shit ride! What kinda rope is he using?"
"It's a reata
," Jake answered. "It's made of very thin strips of platted rawhide."
Nubbins quickly closed the distance to the calf. Nick threw the reata
and it settled neatly over its neck. He reined in Nubbins and the horse
stopped, planting its forelegs. The calf ran to the end of the reata
it tightened about his neck; and brought him down. Nick had quickly
dismounted and was standing over the animal as it hit the ground. Grabbing three of the calf's
thrashing legs, he whipped the leather thong out of his mouth and bound
them together. He stood and turned toward Sean and Jake with a
questioning gesture. Jake pointed toward the branding station. Nick
untied the calf's legs and mounted Nubbins, urging the horse forward, dragging the protesting calf behind.
Jake, Sean and Rusty reached the branding fire as Nick arrived. The boy
dismounted, downed the calf and retied its legs. Jake signaled and a
cowboy brought the red-hot branding iron and pressed it into the calf's
rump. Nick removed the noose from its neck and untied its legs. The
angry little animal sprang to its feet and ran into the herd.
Nick looked expectantly at his observers as he untied the reata
from the saddle and coiled it. Smiling, Jake took Nubbins' reins and motioned them away from the fire as two more cowboys were
dragging calves in to be branded.
Rusty slapped Nick on the back. "That was some fine riding Buckaroo."
Then, at a look from Jake, he added, "I gotta get back to work before I get fired."
Laughing, he loped back to the branding operation.
The three men squatted under the shade of a nearby tree. "That was a
nice piece of work Nick. You know how to ride and wrangle cattle. What
else can you do on a ranch?" Jake inquired.
"I know leather work. I can mend saddles and harness. I can slaughter a
cow and dress the meat as well as render the fat into tallow. And, I
can repair a wagon or carriage. I was being taught the work of a
blacksmith when I left my father's rancho
. My father also taught me math and writing and how
to keep the accounts of the rancho
He blushed slightly. "I also can tend the vegetable and herb garden,
even though that is woman's work."
Jake mused, "There are wild
animals around here that plague the cattle every so often. Can you
"Yes Jake. I am quite accurate with a rifle, but not as accurate with a pistol."
"Fair enough. You're well-versed in ranch crafts Nick. I'm willing to
hire you. I can pay you $4.00 a month plus room and meals. You'll also get two horses and tack. How does
"I accept your generous offer," Nick beamed. Jake extended his hand and they shook to seal the bargain.
"Sean will get you settled and introduce you around." Jake saluted and rode off.
Nick and Sean rode back to the barn and unloaded the crates.
They parked the wagon, unhitched the team and put the horses in the stable.
All the while, Sean dispensed a running commentary, giving Nick an
orientation to the immediate area.
The bunkhouse was their last stop. It was a long, low clapboard building that contained a kitchen/dining
room, wash room and a bunk room that contained about two dozen beds. "This is
where the unmarried men live," Sean explained. "Some of the married
guys have built cabins just inside the main gate, or they live in
you married Sean?" Noting the man's surprised expression, Nick ducked
his head and blushed. "Forgive me. I should not have asked such a
Sean smiled, letting the boy know he did not take offense. "That's all right Nick. No, I'm not married."
Nick brightened and gestured to the room at large. "Then, you sleep here?"
Sean chuckled. "No, I don't sleep here. I live in the main house."
The look that formed on Nick's face was unreadable, but he seemed to
have reached some conclusion.
Sean pointed to a bed. "This one is empty. The last guy that slept here quit last week."
As Nick closely examined the mattress, a voice rang out behind them. "What's the matter, not good enough
for you?" Will Hatfield, a young cowboy, stood in the
doorway, dusty and sweating with his hands on his hips.
Nick looked up at him and smiled. "On the contrary, this mattress is much nicer than the
one I am accustomed to sleeping on. This is filled with cotton. My
mattress at home was filled with dried corn husks."
"Figurers," Will said with a disgusted sneer. "That bed is next to mine, so you better bathe every day boy."
Sean sniffed the air. "Perhaps you should take your own
advice Will." He turned to Nick. "I think the air would be much fresher
at the other end of the room." He took Nick's elbow and guided him in
that direction. Will huffed and retraced his steps out of the building.
dumped Nick's valise on a bed at the far end of the bunk room. He
sat down and patted the bed, inviting the boy to sit. "Nick, I know
without you telling me that you were raised in a lot more luxury than
you will find here." He stared intently at the boy. "Are you absolutely
sure this is what you want?" Nick nodded and Sean sighed. "Okay, let's
talk about how you're going to get along here. You've signed
on with a Yankee ranch and you're of Hispanic heritage. Some of the men
here resent anyone who isn't of Western European blood and culture."
"But Sean, my ancestors came from Spain. That is in Europe."
but they came by way of Mexico and mixed their blood with the Native
Americans. To Yankees, that is unacceptable. Does any Indian blood flow
in your veins?"
"No, my grandfather came to Mexico from Spain and served as an officer in the
army. He married a Spanish lady. When he retired, he was given a land
grant here in Alta California. My father was married to a distant cousin, also from Spain.
So I posses only Spanish blood," he finished, smiling.
Sean smiled kindly. "With your pure blue eyes, I thought so." Then, he
turned serious. "But Will Hatfield, that man who just insulted you,
will not believe that. He's only a couple of years older than you, but that's
long enough for him to have filled himself with a lot of hate. He's of the
opinion that all Hispanics are
half-breeds and beneath contempt. So stay clear of him." He sighed
heavily. "Some of the other men may not like working and sleeping with
a Hispanic either. But, they are all about your age, and they are good
honest men. Hopefully, they will accept you; but, it will be up to you to try to get along with them." He
smiled and laid a hand on Nick's arm. "I promise to keep an eye on the
situation, and I won't let it get
out of hand."
Nick smiled warmly at Sean. "That is very generous of you. But, I am a man and I can take care of myself."
"Fair enough Nick." Sean pointed to a cupboard. "There are sheets,
pillow cases and blankets in there. The dinner bell will ring at seven.
Oh, by the way, we only serve three meals a day here. I know you're used
to eating five, so I suggest you save something from each meal to eat
"Thank you Sean. You have been very kind to me. I will make you a good employee."
That night at the dinner table in the ranch house, Sean reviewed the
subject of Nick with Jake. "There's a story there that we don't know.
My guess is that Nick was either turned out by his family or left by
mutual agreement. What I can't figure out is why? So, what do
you think happened?"
Jake shrugged. "All of that's academic Sean. But, we'll find out sooner or
later. I'm just happy that he showed up here. We can sure use his
skills. I almost shouted out loud when he said he could read and
write, which is more than I can say for the rest of the hands."
Sean grinned. "And he's honest, well-mannered ... and not bad to look at." Jake just grinned at the comment.
next morning, daylight found Sean in the dining hall handing out the
day's assignments while the men finished breakfast. As he entered the
room, he noticed that Rusty was sitting next to Nick, chatting amiably
along with several other men at that end of the table. He sighed with
relief that they seemed to be getting along. He put Nick on range duty
with a half dozen other men. In the stable, he issued the boy a horse,
tack and a rifle and shells, then sent him on his way.
Just before noon, Sean rode up to the north range with the chuck wagon.
This was not his custom, but the men were slowly moving the herd to new
grass at the mouth of a box canyon. The herds had not grazed there for a
season or so and he wanted to check the grass. He was also curious how
Nick was getting along.
While the cook set up the chuck wagon and started the cooking fire, he
rode on. The herd was watering at the small stream that flowed out of the
canyon. The grass seemed plentiful and the cattle seemed content. He
scanned the men and approached a cowboy.
"Where are Rusty and Nick?"
The boy gestured toward the mouth of the canyon. "They're in there
looking for strays. Nick shot a bear in there earlier. So
they figured the canyon was too dangerous for the cattle."
nodded and followed the stream into the canyon. In the distance,
he could see a half dozen head of cattle moving in his direction, with
Rusty riding behind them. He shifted his gaze to Nick who was
driving two cows from a grove of trees about two hundred yards from the
redheaded boy. Suddenly, Rusty screamed and fell to the ground
clutching his arm. His horse spooked and bolted away. Rolling to his
knees, he faced a mountain lion crouched not ten feet from him ready to
spring for another attack. With no weapons, Rusty waved his hat at the
beast and shouted at it. The snarling ball of fur cowered for the blink
of an eye, then arched its back, ready to strike. Sean urged his mount
a gallop toward them. As he approached, a shot rang out and the lion
fell back with blood
oozing from its head. Sean and Rusty looked up to see Nick riding
them at a full gallop, waving his rifle in one hand.
riders reined their mounts to a stop and rushed to Rusty's side. The
boy sat clutching his arm, wide-eyed, pulse racing and breathing
"Thanks Nick. I thought I was a goner."
"Nice shooting Nick," Sean said.
"It is no matter as long as Rusty is safe," he replied with a shy smile.
They turned their attention to the redhead's arm. His shirt sleeve was
ripped, revealing two long, shallow gashes from the mountain lion's
claws. Sean helped Rusty remove the shirt, then he wet his bandanna in the stream
and began to sponge the wounds. Nick waded across the stream,
unsheathed his knife and cut a branch from a low bush. Back
at Rusty's side, he untied the bandanna from his neck and spread it on
the grass. He stripped the leaves from the branch and crushed them
between the palms of his hands.
Piling the leaves into the bandanna, he said, "Rusty, hold out your
arm." He tied the balm over the gashes and smiled at his friend. "The
juice from the leaves will sooth the wounds and keep them from
Rusty clasped Nick's hand and gave him a lopsided grin. "My friend, you can ride with me anytime, anywhere."
Nick pulled Rusty up behind him in the saddle and they rode back to the
herd where the cowboys were trying to round up Rusty's horse and the
cattle spooked by the lion.
The noon meal was finally served and Rusty told his story, earning Nick many congratulatory slaps on the back from his fellows.
That night at the bunkhouse, Nick sat with Rusty, Sean and several other hands--including Will Hatfield--as he prepared
a fresh balm for the boy's arm. He had visited the herb garden to
retrieve more leaves, and had obtained a long swatch of cheesecloth from
"The scratches haven't reddened," Sean observed. "How do they feel Rusty?"
"The arm feels a little tight, but there isn't any pain. I'll be able to work tomorrow."
Sean smiled and placed his arm around Nick's shoulders. "I'm glad you know
your herbs, even if it is woman's work." Nick ducked his head and
blushed while everyone but Will laughed.
As Nick prepared to bind the arm, Will commented, "I wouldn't let him bandage me with that Mexican
Rusty shot him a vicious look and snarled, "Well, I'm not you Will.
Mind your own business." At a stern look from Sean, Will retreated to
the other end of the room. Rusty turned to Nick. "Sorry about him."
Nick smiled as he finished tying the bandage. "He does not matter. It is your arm that concerns me."
That night, as Nick bathed in the wash house, he felt a presence. He
turned to find Will standing in the doorway staring at him. When he
gave the man a questioning look, Will turned away. Finished
with his bath, Nick stepped from the tub. The angular planes of his
muscular body glistened gold from the lantern light overhead as the
water cascaded from him.
He tipped the bathtub, emptying its contents into the sluice in the
brick floor. He then placed a wash tub under the pump, filled it and
washed his clothes. He had just hung his shabby garments to dry on a
line strung across the room when he felt another presence. He
turned--expecting Will--to see Rusty, nude, staring at him. He turned to
the redhead and stared in kind. Rusty was tall, but well-formed, with a
light dusting of flame red hair covering his body. Other than his head, the thickest patch of red hair crowned his
long lean penis.
Nick broke eye contact first, glancing at the floor. "Pardon me for
staring Rusty, but I have never seen a naked man with red hair before."
Rusty smiled shyly. "I beg your pardon for staring at you Nick. I've never seen a naked Spanish guy either."
Their apologies acknowledged, the boys continued to stare at each
other, while blood began to inflate their manhood. Neither seemed
embarrassed by this event. Rusty's penis was long, slim and the same
color as his milk white skin, while Nick's penis was thick and a darker
color than the rest of his body.
The two were suddenly no longer working cowboys; they were just horny
teenagers. As their shafts grew to full staff, their foreskins
retracted, revealing their penis heads.
Nick gazed at Rusty's long shaft in amazement. "The head of your penis is so different. It is red, like a rose."
Rusty giggled and stepped in front of Nick, pulling his foreskin back
to give his friend a better view. "Nick, the head of your penis is
different from any I've seen. It's purple." Nick retracted his
foreskin, comparing himself with Rusty.
They grinned at each other, celebrating their differences while
manipulating themselves to even harder erections. "Nick, are you as
horny as I am?"
Rusty made a rapid masturbating motion with his fist. "Do you want to relieve yourself ... with me?"
Finally understanding, Nick flashed Rusty a wide smile and nodded. "I would like that. It has been a long time."
"Me too. Come on then. I'll show you where we do it." He grabbed Nick's hand and led him out the door.
They circled the outhouse and stood behind it, hidden from the view of
the other ranch buildings. The light of the full moon starkly
illuminated the scene. The two boys stood side by side, almost
touching. Hands on their buttocks, they thrust out their hips and sucked
in their stomachs, making their penises as large and hard as possible.
They sighed with satisfaction and began to stroke slowly. Murmuring
compliments and encouragement to each other, their hands picked up
speed. Moaning with long pent-up need, they raced to the finish. Their
bodies stiffened and both shafts sent ropes of semen arcing through the
moonlight. As their orgasms diminished, they shuddered and grunted,
fists grasping the objects of their pleasure fiercely.
They exchanged rather dazed grins. "Man, that was good!" Rusty exclaimed.
"Sì, amigo. Muy sensaciòn
Rusty clapped Nick on the shoulder. "Well, I'm sure going to sleep better tonight."
As they turned toward the bunkhouse, they did not see the shadow that ducked out of sight.
The rest of the week passed without incident. While taking care of
their endless duties, Jake and Sean had managed to keep an eye on Nick.
His relationship with the other hands seemed to improve daily. They
were impressed with his ranch skills, and everyone was delighted to
discover that he had a wicked sense of humor. Nick also seemed to possess
natural leadership abilities, for Jake and Sean observed the other hands
defer to him when minor decisions needed to be made. Porter Ranch
seemed to be
functioning like a well oiled machine.
On Saturday morning, Nick was alone, mending saddles in the tack room. He
was intent on repairing a stirrup when a hand gripped his
shoulder. Nick twirled around with an awl in one hand and a strip of
leather in the other. The sharp point of the awl stopped inches from Will's
chest. The man jumped back, smiling, and raised his hands in mock surrender.
Nick immediately dropped his arms to his sides and said, "The tool is for
punching holes in leather Will, not people. You startled me."
Will took a deep breath and lowered his hands. Still smiling, he said,
"I just wanted to apologize to you for the things I've said. You're a
good hand and a hard worker. I've misjudged you."
Nick was clearly delighted with Will's change of attitude. "Thank you Will."
Having said what he wanted to say, Will shifted his feet uncomfortably.
He glanced about the room, then gestured toward the long line of
on the wall. "That third saddle down is mine. It has a worn cinch.
Would you please repair it for me?"
Nick replied with emotion, "I will be pleased to do so Will."
Will nodded, then
turned and walked out of the room. Nick returned to the task at hand, humming to himself.
Saturday night, Jake and Sean had just stabled their horses and were
walking toward the main house when they heard music. They stopped to
listen and identified a guitar, beautifully played, accompanying a
crystal clear baritone voice. This intrigued them, for they had not
heard music at Porter Ranch in several years, not since their fathers had died. The music grew louder as
they approached the bunkhouse, and the Spanish words identified the
voice. They slipped into the room to see Nick sitting on his bunk, his
back propped against the wall, entertaining the rest of the cowboys.
Everyone was sprawled on his bunk, listening intently. At the end of
the song, the men shouted their approval, causing Nick to blush. He
handed the guitar to one of the hands.
"Thank you Jeff for allowing me to play your guitar. It is a beautiful instrument."
Jeff immediately pushed it back into Nick's hands. "You play it Nick.
All I can do is strum the damned thing. Play some more for us." His words were
reinforced by a chorus of approval.
"I only know Spanish songs. If you will sing some English songs, I will try to pick the melodies. Then, we can all join in."
Everyone thought for a while, then Jeff said, "I remember one," and
began to sing. He rapped out the rhythm with his fingers and Nick
picked out the melody. After the first chorus, all
the men joined in.
Nick spotted Sean and Jake and they exchanged smiles. When the song
ended, Nick called out, "Sean, Jake give us a new song to sing."
Jake poked Sean in the ribs. "You have the voice. Sing something." Sean
frequently sang to entertain himself while riding alone on the range.
His favorites were the Irish songs his mother taught him. He nodded his
assent and began to sing in a high tenor voice. Nick immediately picked
up the melody and Jeff joined in, singing harmony. At the end, they
were rewarded with thunderous applause.
An older hand spoke up. "Sean, how about you and Jake give us one of
those Irish dances your pa taught you?" Everyone shouted encouragement
and the man began to clap out a rhythm. Nick picked out a melody line,
then all the men began clapping. Jake and Sean looked at each
other and nodded. Their boots moved with the rhythm and they clogged
shoulder to shoulder down the aisle between the beds. To the delight of
the men, they danced and danced until Jake tripped over one of the beds
and crashed into Sean, sending them sprawling onto the floor. Everyone,
including Jake and Sean, howled with laughter.
When Jake caught his breath, he shook Nick's hand. "Thank you for the
songs. It's been too long since we've heard music here." And many
melodies graced the night air thereafter as the men closed their work
day with song.
Friday noon of the second week of Nick's employment found Nick and Sean
out on the north range eating their noon meal under the shade of a tree.
Each man had quickly come to enjoy the company of the other. In the beginning,
they were acutely aware of their official relationship of employer and
employee. Initially, their bond of trust was based on respect for their
ranching skills. Whenever they were together they talked ranching, and
Sean soon found that Nick knew as much about the industry as he.
Eventually, their mutual respect blossomed into friendship and all
artificial barriers between them dropped. They found that they could
converse without pretense; although, Nick shied away from talking about
his past. Nevertheless, he seemed fascinated by the history of this
Yankee ranch and the relationship of Jake and Sean in particular. As
they wolfed down the last bites of their food, Nick inquired about the
Sean seemed eager to tell Nick about it. "Jake's father owned a ranch
in Missouri. When the Civil War started to heat up, he sold out and
moved here. It was just he and Jake, because Jake's mother died giving
birth to him. They made the trip by wagon train. It was hard. I know.
My parents and I emigrated from Ireland and landed in New York
just as the Civil War got into full swing. My folks didn't think it was
their fight, so we made the trip out here by wagon train too." Sean
gazed off into the distance and blinked back tears. "I was only seven,
but I was old enough to know how hard that journey was." He smiled
sadly at Nick. "My mother got sick and died on that trip, out in the
middle of God damned nowhere, with no priest to give her last rites and
no head stone to mark her grave," he concluded,
bitterness in his voice.
Nick reached over and took his friend's hand. Sean
continued. "Anyway, the big Mexican land grants were breaking up in
this area, and Jake's dad bought this spread. He had the
ranch going pretty well when Da
and I arrived. We were out of money and needed work badly, so my father hired on as the foreman for Jake's father."
Sean smiled fondly at the memory. "Living on this ranch was so
different than Ireland. I felt so lost ... until I met Jake. We were
the same age and became instant friends. His father built Da
and I the little house that sits across the way from the hay barn. But,
Jake and I didn't know where 'home' was. We slept in whichever house we
were in when nightfall came. We grew up together; we experienced
everything together. We went to school together; we learned ranching
together." He chuckled. "And, we learned about sex together."
He turned serious and looked intently at Nick. "You wanted to know
about my relationship with Jake? He's my best friend, my brother, my
confidant, the one person on Earth that I have no secrets from. I trust
him with my life, and he feels the same way about me." He took a deep
breath and noticed that he was still holding Nick's hand. He smiled at
the boy, gave his hand a gentle squeeze, and casually pulled away. "As
I said, we grew up together. His father passed away two years ago and
the ranch became his. Then my father died last year and Jake made me
the foreman. Both deaths were hard on us. So Jake asked me to move into
the big house with him." He smiled at Nick. "And, that's
Nick had been mesmerized by the tale. He roused himself and said, "Your
life has been a great adventure. You have seen much and done more than
most men. Parts of it are painful, but it has brought you a friendship
that many would envy." He looked confidently into Sean's eyes and
placed his hand on the man's shoulder. "Thank you for telling me
something about yourself my friend. I will respect your candor, always."
"And I will respect yours, my friend." Sean smiled ruefully. "One day,
when you are ready to tell me about yourself, I will listen and
Without breaking eye contact, Nick replied, "I believe you will." They rose and returned to work.
At the evening meal that night Sean seemed distracted. The table
conversation between he and Jake had been disjointed to the point of being
comical. Just before desert was served, Jake laid down his fork and
said, "... and a giant grizzly bear floated down from Heaven and ate
half the herd."
When Jake stopped speaking, Sean refocused his eyes on Jake and smiled. "That's interesting," he interjected and resumed eating.
Jake just stared at him, grinning. Sean looked up in surprise. "What?" Jake burst out laughing.
Between bouts of laughter, Jake managed to say, "Sean, you haven't
heard every third word I've said all evening. And every other word
you've said hasn't made bat sense." He spread his arms wide. "This is
your best buddy here. Tell me about it." Sean looked up at his friend
with dark soulful eyes. Jake gave him a mock frown. "Let me see. I get
three guesses and the first two don't count. Hm, must be Nick
Sean propped his elbows on the table and covered his face with his
hands. "You guessed it." He looked at Jake with a lopsided smile. "I
just can't stop thinking about him. We've become good friends, and ...
and, he's so ... perfect. He's smart; he's funny; he's honest; he's
caring." He sputtered for the length of a heartbeat. "He's a hard
worker; and he's a good rancher. Shit, he knows as much about ranching
as I do." He sighed. "And, he's so beautiful ... " Then, his eyes went out of
Jake took his turn placing his elbows on the table. He rested his
chin in his hands and smiled kindly. "Oh my, you've got it bad."
Sean sighed again. "Uh huh."
"You haven't been hit this hard since you were sixteen," Jake mused. "What are you going to do about it?"
"I don't know," Sean said miserably. "I don't know if he likes to be
with men. Maybe he's just a nice friendly guy, but likes women."
Suppressing a smile, Jake said thoughtfully, "I've noticed that Nick only has one set of work
clothes. The poor guy has to wash them every night. Tomorrow is Saturday and you have to go into town for supplies."
Sean began to catch on. "I could give him an advance on his wages so he
could afford to buy himself some new clothes."
"Yeah, he could hitch a ride with me and we could spend the whole day
together talking." Sean was becoming more excited by the minute.
"Um huh. Then you might be able to find out if he goes with men."
Sean leaned back in his chair and looked at the ceiling. "And if he
does, I hope he goes with me." He closed his eyes and made the sign of the cross over his breast.
The next morning after breakfast, Jake found Nick leaning over the
corral fence watching a cowboy break a wild horse. At the sound of his
name, Nick turned.
"Hold out your hand Nick," Jake said with a smile. The boy complied
with wide eyes. Jake dropped several silver coins into his palm.
"That's an advance on your wages. Sean is taking the wagon into Santa
Paula for supplies. I thought maybe you'd like to ride in with him.
Maybe do some shopping for stuff you need."
The young man's eyes glittered with happiness. He closed his hand
around the coins and pressed it to his chest. "Thank you Jake. This is
the first money I have earned for myself, through my own merit. This
means much to me."
Jake looked at the boy sincerely. "You earned it Nick. I wish I could pay you more."
Nick blushed, then looked down at his shirt and pants. "Maybe I could buy myself new clothes."
Jake broke into a broad smile. "That sounds like a great idea. Sean is
hitching up the team right now." Nick scampered off toward the stable.
Jake shook his head, still smiling. "I hope neither of them gets hurt,"
he mumbled to himself.
Thirty minutes later, the wagon was rumbling out of the Porter Ranch
gate toward Santa Paula. The sun was warm and the air was cooled by a
sea breeze. It was a perfect day. The two young men chatted happily
about anything that came to mind. Their first stop
in town, at Nick's request, was a church. He wanted to give thanks for all the blessings he
had received since he came to Porter Ranch. Sean knelt with him and
simply gave thanks for Nick coming into his life. They stopped at the
blacksmith's to pick up a wagon wheel that had been repaired, at the
hardware store for nails and kerosene, at the lumber yard for a bundle
of shingles, and at the grocery store for food supplies. Sean took
great pains to introduce Nick to each proprietor as a new and valuable
hand at the ranch, causing Nick to blush furiously with each compliment.
this time, the wagon was full. Nick watered the horses, then drove
the team under the shade of a large oak tree and covered the freight
with a tarpaulin.
He and Sean walked back to the dry goods store to
shop for clothes. It soon became apparent that Nick had never shopped
for anything for himself. So, Sean joined the boy on his search for new
garments. Like small boys on Christmas morning, they pored over
the inventory, pondering the purchase of one item over another.
Ultimately, Nick chose two pairs of pants, three shirts and four pairs
socks. At the counter, he proudly counted out the coins while the
proprietor wrapped the goods. The old man congratulated him on his
purchases and solemnly shook
the way back to the wagon, Nick clutched the bundle tightly to his
chest, his face splitting with a smile. Sean looked at his shining blue
eyes and dazzling white teeth and his heart melted. They had talked
about a hundred different topics during the morning--and thoroughly
enjoyed themselves, but hadn't touched on anything that would answer
the one question Sean had in mind. He sighed, then reflected that he
had been doing a lot of that lately. Giving himself a self-deprecating
chuckle, he looked at his pocket watch. He was surprised to see that
they had been in town over five hours, and it was way past time for
their midday meal. Just then Nick's stomach growled loudly, and they
"Let's head over to Hudson House and see if they have anything left for
lunch. I'm starving and you sound like you are too," Sean suggested.
Hudson House was a landmark of Santa Paula. It was the only hotel in
town and housed the only restaurant in the vicinity. The restaurant also shared
space with the town's most fashionable saloon, which boasted the prettiest girls in the
county. It was well known--although not talked about in polite
company--that those girls would condescend to entertain lonely cowboys,
for the right price.
As they entered the restaurant, they were greeted warmly and
immediately seated at a table laid with a white linen cloth, fine
china, silver flatware and crystal. As Nick studied the table, Sean
asked, "It's not exactly like the bunkhouse dining room, is it?"
Nick, momentarily lost in thought, said, "It reminds me of my home."
Before Sean could inquire further, Polly Andrews, a pretty
blonde-haired blue-eyed woman, fashionably dressed, hurried over from
the saloon. She and Sean greeted with a hug and kisses on the cheek.
Nick also stood as she approached the table and Sean introduced him.
They conversed happily for a few minutes, then she excused herself and
returned to the saloon.
A waiter took their order and brought them a bottle of wine. Nick
sipped the wine appreciatively, then asked, "Is Polly your special lady friend?"
Sean grinned, grateful for the question. "She and I are friends, but
she is not my girlfriend." He looked Nick in
the eye as he said, "I don't have one." Getting no visible reaction from the boy, he
continued. "Unfortunately, Polly works as a bar girl." Getting a raised
eyebrow from Nick, he went on. "I say unfortunately because Jake is
quite smitten with her, and has been for years. She is just as taken
with him, but she won't allow him to court her."
"Why is that?"
"Because she runs a saloon. And, part of her job is to manage the girls that have sex with guys
for pay. I suspect she has her own special clients too. So, she doesn't feel like she's worthy of Jake."
"How sad, for both of them."
"Yeah. Jake would ask her to marry him in a minute if she would agree."
As the waiter removed the last dishes of their delicious lunch, Sean
was staring into the saloon. He abruptly turned to Nick and smiled.
"We've done a good days work today. Let's have a drink before we head
back to the ranch."
They had settled at a table in the middle of the saloon, when Sean
excused himself and spoke briefly to Polly. He had just
returned to the table when a pretty girl about Nick's age approached
with a bottle of whiskey and two glasses. Sean introduced Lillian to
Nick, and the girl settled herself into a chair at Nick's side. Sean
looked at his watch and exclaimed, "Oh damn, I just remembered
that I have to check the mail at the Post Office." He threw several
coins on the table and added, "Enjoy yourself Nick. I'll be back in a
while." He turned and strode from the building as Lillian rested her
hand on Nick's arm.
An hour later, Sean re-entered the saloon and glanced about the room.
Their table was empty and Nick was nowhere in sight. Sean heaved a
great sigh. He had the answer to his question. Crestfallen, he simply
stared at the floor. Polly approached, smiling in her usual cavalier
manner and quipped, "What's the matter cowboy? You look like someone
shot your horse and your dog all in the same day." Sean looked up at
her with the saddest eyes she'd ever seen. Sobering, she asked again,
"Sean, what's the matter?"
He gazed up at the balcony overlooking the saloon, the location of the
girls' bedrooms. He responded with a question he didn't want to ask.
"Do you know where Nick is?"
Polly noticed where Sean was looking. "Honey, he ain't up there. He
staggered out of here about ten minutes ago shitfaced drunk."
"What?" Sean asked, incredulous.
"Yeah, when he found out what Lillian was offering, he became as
nervous as one of us girls in church and started drinking as fast as he
could. He was very polie about it, but he turned her down flat. I sent two other
girls over to him in turn and he turned them down too, and just kept
drinking. Your new cowhand is either extremely shy or he doesn't like
As Polly spoke, Sean began to smile, and the usual sparkle returned to
his eyes. When she saw Sean's reaction, Polly's eyes narrowed to slits
and her mouth became a set line. She placed one well-manicured hand on
her hip and barked, "You black-eyed Irish shit! You did that on purpose!"
Sean suddenly felt contrite, blushing to the roots of his hair. He
mumbled, "I'm very fond of him Polly. It was the only way I could think
of to find out for sure if he went with men." He hung his head and
stared at his boots.
Polly knew Sean well, and her temper cooled. "Well, I think
you found out what you wanted to know. I still think it was a dirty
trick, but I wish you well. You deserve to have a good man at your
side." She kissed him on the cheek, and walked away.
Sean darted out of the saloon and rushed down the street, looking for
signs of Nick. He worked his way back to the wagon and found the boy
sprawled on top of the freight, snoring loudly. Stepping carefully
around the evidence that Nick had lost his lunch as well as most of the
whiskey he had consumed, Sean climbed onto the back of the wagon. He
crawled over to the boy and looked down at him. Nick didn't seem any
worse for wear. He hadn't soiled his clothes; he seemed to be simply
Relieved that Nick hadn't hurt himself, Sean studied the boy. He was
completely relaxed, appearing not to have a care in the world. The
through the tree branches glinted in the highlights of his dark hair
and cast mottled shadows over the clear skin of his face. His long dark
eyelashes rested on his cheeks. His full red lips were slightly parted.
At that moment, Sean thought that Nick was the most beautiful creature
that God had ever created.
For a moment, he contemplated his options for transporting Nick home
safely and decided to leave him where he lay. He threw a rope across
the boy's waist and tied the ends on either side of the wagon bed. With
Nick secure, the hopped into the seat and headed for the ranch.
About a mile out of town, laughter erupted behind him. He glanced back
to see Nick trying unsuccessfully to sit up. He smiled at the sight and
stopped the wagon.
"Ha, ha, ha, ha, this is such a funny dream. I am dreaming in English!"
He hiccuped and belched loudly. As Sean crawled back to the boy, Nick
continued to laugh. "Ha, ha, ha, ha, I am riding with Sean. Hello Sean.
I am so happy that you are in my dream." Sean knelt over the boy and
laughed with him. Nick reached up and stroked Sean's cheek. "I like it
when you are in my dreams."
"Hello Beautiful. I'm glad you're having fun. And this isn't a dream. I'm right here with you."
Nick frowned, like a confused child. "Not a dream?" Sean shook his
head. Then, Nick smiled. "Do you really think I am beautiful?"
Sean nodded. "Beautiful enough to do this." He leaned down and kissed the boy.
"Oh, that was nice! You often kiss me in my dreams." Nick's face lit with a smile.
Sean's heart soared on hearing this. A sob stuck in his throat and
tears filled his eyes. "I'll kiss you anytime you
want Nick. I love you very much."
Nick took Sean's face between his hands and wiped away his tears. "I would like that very much, because I love you
too." Then, a frown crossed his lovely face and his eyes focused on another thought. "But I am worried Sean."
"I am worried because I can not get up, and I have to urinate most urgently."
Sean then shed tears of laughter. "You can't move because you're very drunk,
and I tied you down to keep you from rolling off the wagon." He untied
one end of the rope and pulled the boy into a sitting position on the
edge of the wagon. "Come on, I'll help you down." He jumped to the
ground and Nick slid into his arms. Leaning against the side of the
wagon, Nick made several unsuccessful attempts to unbutton his
pants, then looked up helplessly at Sean.
"What am I to do Sean? It is most unseemly to urinate in one's clothing."
Sean was giggling uncontrollably. "Here, I'll help you." He unbuttoned
Nick and took out his penis. "Let it rip Nick. You're in the clear."
Nick sighed and leaned his head back against the wagon as he produced a
As Sean watched the show, he became increasingly conscious of the fact
that he was holding the penis of the man he loved. It felt so warm and
looked so lovely. His hand began to tremble. The sight of it mesmerized
him. He continued to hold it long after the stream ceased. When it
began to harden, he looked up at Nick.
The boy was staring at his crotch intently. "You are holding me Sean. I
have wanted this so often. I think of it every time I masturbate."
Sean rasped out, "Let me show you what I think about when I
masturbate." He sank to his knees and took the object of his fantasy into
his mouth. Nick sucked air into his lungs noisily at the feeling of his
dream come true. Sean pressed forward, taking in all of his lover and
inhaling the scent of his musk. He pulled away and retracted the
foreskin, revealing the purple head, pulsating with desire. His eyes
glazed over with lust at the sight. Determined to give Nick as much
pleasure as possible, he took his beloved's shaft into his mouth once
more and began a steady rhythm of sucking. His head bobbed and twisted
as his tongue and cheeks caressed the penis. Presently, Nick's body
began to stiffen as a high keening escaped his lips. At the ultimate
moment, he grasped Sean's head and moaned loudly, expending his seed
deep into his lover's throat.
They remained locked together for a time, until Nick's shaft began to
soften. Sean stood and took Nick into his arms, kissing him warmly.
When their lips parted, Nick said, "Oh Sean, that was more wonderful than I had imagined!"
"For me too," Sean responded, resting his forehead on Nick's shoulder.
The boy began to sag in Sean's arms. "I ... I am feeling very tired."
Sean chuckled. "Okay, we'd better get you home then." With some
difficulty, Sean wrangled Nick into the wagon. The boy insisted on sitting
beside him; unfortunately, he immediately passed out and lay across the
seat with his head in Sean's lap.
Shortly before five o'clock, Sean stopped the wagon beside the
bunkhouse. Rusty ran up to them and asked, "Sean, what's the matter
"He's shitfaced drunk. Help me get him inside." They managed to lower
Nick's comatose form to the ground and carry him to his bunk. With some
difficulty, they stripped him and settled him under the blankets.
Rusty stared down at his friend. "Jesus, the guy is a ton of solid muscle." He snickered. "But, he can't hold his liquor, huh?"
Sean chuckled. "Apparently he's only used to wine. He tanked up pretty good on whiskey at Hudson House."
Rusty grinned wolfishly. "Ooooo, did he have a good time with the ladies?"
Sean chuckled mirthlessly. "Not according to Polly. He was too busy
knocking back the booze. He threw up most of it, but he's going to have
a headache later."
Rusty saw Sean's concerned expression. "Don't worry about him Sean. I'll keep an eye on him."
At the dinner table that night, Sean recounted the day's adventures
with Nick. Jake frowned through part of the story. At last, he said,
not unkindly, "Don't you think that it was a bit unfair to sic those
girls on Nick?"
Sean had been feeling acutely uncomfortable and feeling somewhat guilty
since putting the boy to bed. "Gee thanks buddy for cheering me up.
You're the second person to tell me that. Polly actually yelled at me,
and called me a black-eyed Irish shit."
Jake had intimate knowledge of Polly's Scottish temper and dissolved
into silent laughter while imagining the scene. When he could speak, he
assumed a more conciliatory tone. "Well, you did find out what you
wanted to know--and more. You found out that he does have feelings for
you. That's good. And, he didn't come to harm. The worst he will suffer
is a headache."
Sean moped around his bedroom for the rest of the evening, then sank into a fitful sleep.
At that moment, Nick wakened and looked about in confusion. He
reckoned his whereabouts by the dim light of the night lantern hanging
above the door. Acutely aware first, of his headache, and then of his full bladder, he slid out of bed
and padded quietly to the outhouse. While he released his stream into
the toilet, thousands of random thoughts swirled in his aching head. He
remembered the day's trip into town with joy, because he and Sean had
been together. He had helped Sean with the ranch supplies; Sean had
praised his work to the shopkeepers; Sean had helped him purchase new
clothes; and he and Sean had shared a fine meal. Then, in the saloon,
Sean had left him, and the memories became fuzzy: girls flirting
shamelessly with him, drinking foul tasting whiskey, dreaming of
kissing Sean and making love. Was all that a dream?
He shrugged and left the outhouse. As he closed the door something
connected hard with his left temple, spinning him around. Someone
yanked his right arm behind his back, twisting it painfully up to his
shoulder blades, and shoved him face first into the rough wood of
the outhouse door. He was stunned, but recovered enough to hear a voice
whisper viciously into his ear. "I knew I was right to keep my eye on
you when you first came here. At first I thought you were trying to
cozy up to Sean. Then, when I saw you start to jack off with the guys
behind the outhouse, I hoped you might go for one of them." He slammed
Nick into the wood once more. "But no! You were after Sean all along!
Then today, you had the gall to come driving up in the wagon with your
head in his lap." He punched Nick in the kidney. "Did you suck his
cock, you whore?" When he received no response, he continued his tirade.
"Well, you listen and listen good. No one can have Sean but me. Now
I'm going to give you what you wanted from him. Then you're going to
clear out of Porter Ranch." Something hard connected with the back of
Nick's head and he heard no more.
Sean wakened with a start. The room was hot; he was tangled in the
bedcovers; and he could smell his own sweat. Somewhat stiffly, he rose
and lit a lamp. The clock on the fireplace mantel indicated that it was
considerably past midnight. He opened a window and was greeted with a
breeze. Inhaling the fresh air inspired him. He pulled
on a pair of pants and stepped out of doors. In a moment, he knew what
him: guilt. Returning to his bedroom, he slid into a pair of boots and
headed to the bunkhouse.
On entering the bunk room, he noticed that Nick's bed was empty, as
well as Rusty's. Thinking that Nick might be hungry, he went to the
kitchen. Then, he checked the wash room. With a feeling of concern
gathering in his gut, he went to the stable and was relieved to see
Nick's horse there. Now thoroughly concerned, he headed for the
outhouse, thinking that Nick might be sick. As he rounded the corner of
the bunkhouse, a nude Rusty ran toward him with a wild look in
his eyes. He grabbed Sean by the shoulders and babbled, "Oh God Sean!
Thank God you're here! Come quick! It's Nick." Without waiting for an
answer, he turned and ran toward the back of the outhouse.
To be continued.
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