"Good morning, and thank you for calling Double Trails. This is Tracer, how may I help you?"
"Morning, Tracer, getting mighty formal there aren't you," Doc Cranston responded.
"Just trying to sound professional, at least once in a while."
"Hehehehe, gotcha young man. You could give my receptionist some training. Anyway... the reason I called..."
"Animal Control called me in this morning. They've confiscated three horses, had me do the medical exams, and are looking for a place to house them."
"Damn, I don't like hearing this..."
"The horses can be saved."
"That's good news."
"But it's going to take a LOT of work."
"That's not good."
"Did I mention that they are Quarters."
"No, you had not... just how bad are they?"
"Malnourished... very weak... some sores... nothing too serious... damn idiots."
"The owners! How anyone could do this to such noble beasts."
"I wonder if they just ran out of money..."
"So, anyway, would Double Trails be able to house these beasts until the county can auction them off?"
"How long would they need to stay? I want to give the guys all the information possible, so they can make an informed decision... though, to be honest, I doubt it will be a problem."
"I can check with the county on the auction times, but I'm figuring several months."
"Can I call you back in a little bit?"
"Call the office and let my receptionist know if you're willing, or if you need more information... she'll call the county."
"Sounds good. Talk to you later Doc."
I got up, grabbed the mic on the base station, and called out to Erik and Will. With Ryan on the road to TriCities airport, he wouldn't be in on this decision. I told them what was going on, and explained the limited details I had. Both agreed that we should take the horses. I called Dr. Cranston's office and let his receptionist know that we'd house the horses till auction. She indicated the county was trying to arrange transportation, and would deliver the horses in the afternoon.
At lunch, the three of us started discussing what to do about the horses.
"We should isolate them until we're sure they don't have any disease," Erik said. "I know that Doc checked them out, but that's no guarantee."
"We could use the east paddock," Will said. "Three horses wouldn't be too crowded; and with the stable right there, we could feed them, groom and care for them easily."
"If we use the south paddock, they could go into shelter during a storm," I explained.
"We use the south paddock a lot," Will countered. "What would we do for an alternative, if we use it for these horses?"
I thought about it for a few moments. "You're right, the east paddock makes more sense from a space concern. I was just thinking about storms."
"Well, if something big comes up, we can always put them in the barn," Erik stated.
"That works," I admitted. "They've been through enough, already."
We finished lunch and all headed back outside to continue work. About two, I saw a big white Ford pulling a large gooseneck trailer coming down the driveway. I grabbed my walkie-talkie, "Erik, Will, the horses are here."
I talked with the guys from animal control and helped them get the gate lowered on the back of the trailer. I was distraught as they led the first horse of the trailer. The poor fellow's ribs were showing through a coat that was dull and lifeless. When healthy, I figured he would be a handsome stallion with a dark brown coat and a black mane, tail, and lower legs. He had a large white area on his hind quarter with brown spots throughout it.
The second horse was a sorrel mare. She looked as pathetic as the stallion. I gasped as the second Animal Control agent led the third horse out - actually a small filly - who appeared to be in worse shape than either of the two adults.
"Damn!" I cussed.
"She looks bad," Randy said, as he walked up beside me.
"I can't believe it," I said, as the first tear started down my cheek. "It's just wrong!"
"Given the right care, all three of them will bounce back."
"I know, I know... I just can't believe that anyone could do this."
With the three horses out of the trailer, the agents and I led the horses into the east paddock. As I talked with the agents about expectations, the three horses had found the feeder and water trough.
"Don't expect them to eat a lot," the agent warned. "They need to get used to having food again first."
"Understood. We'll make sure they have enough food and water. We're going to have Doc come over and work with us on them," I explained.
"Food's great," the agent responded. "But you don't need to provide any additional care."
"We've got over a hundred horses here on the farm that we give the best care possible. We don't want these three to impact ours. They may only be visitors, but they deserve good care."
"We don't see many horses," one of the agents said. "Mostly dogs, cats... a few other critters, including a few wild ones. Seems like y'all have a nice place here."
"Would you like a tour," I offered.
"Sure," they agreed.
We were walking through the stables as Erik and Will came through the back door. Will was leading Cotton Eyed Joe, and Erik had Diablo. I introduced the agents to them and finished up the tour. As we walked out of the stables and I said goodbye, I turned to find Erik and Will sitting on the fence looking at our guests.
"Pretty sad, isn't it," I said.
"Yup, but we'll get them healthy and filled out in no time," Will said.
"Agreed," Erik added.
I climbed up on the fence and sat there chatting for a few minutes. I heard a vehicle, and turned to see Ryan's Jeep turning onto the driveway. Moments later, he and Christian climbed out, and my mouth dropped.
When I'd first met Christian, about eighteen months earlier, he'd been about five foot four. Will had mentioned he thought Christian was tall for a thirteen year old, while I thought he was average. When he'd returned a few months later, there really wasn't any noticeable growth... though I'm sure he was a bit taller. Now, all I could think was he'd gotten hold of some really good vitamins.
The three of us climbed off the fence and walked over to greet him.
"Welcome back," Will said, as he gave Christian a big hug. "You've really grown!"
"I'm five-nine now," Christian replied in a much deeper voice than I remembered.
"And your voice has dropped," Erik added, as he shook hands with Christian.
"Yeah," Christian said quietly.
I got the impression that he wasn't as comfortable with us noticing all the changes as I would have imagined.
"Growing up," I commented as I shook hands. "All part of life."
By this point, Ryan had come around the Jeep, and was standing next to Christian.
"Damn..." I let slip quietly.
"What?" Ryan asked me, looking very puzzled.
"Will always commented that you two looked a lot alike, but during your last visit I didn't see it. I mean, you're half-brothers and all... but... damn... now, you two look... you look like... hell, you look more like each other than Will and I do."
Erik and Will both studied them for a moment.
"Tracer's right, you both look a lot like your mom," Erik said.
"Well, I haven't seen a picture of your mom," Will put in, "but you two can't say you don't look your dads... or each other. I mean, different hair styles, and Christian's peach fuzz isn't the same as Ryan's goatee... but yeah... you're brothers!"
Ryan got a huge grin on his face, and put his arm around Christian's shoulder. I could tell he was very happy to hear that.
"Won't be long before you can look Ryan eye-to-eye," Erik added.
We helped get his bags out of the back of the Jeep, and were about to head towards the house when our other guests caught Ryan's eye.
"Who... who are they?" he asked, pointing towards the east paddock.
"We agreed to take in three rescue horses for the county, and house them until the next auction," I explained.
"Are those their ribs?" Christian asked, his voice sounded shocked.
"Yeah. They are pretty malnourished... but we're gonna change that!" Will replied.
"That's so sad," Christian added. "That anyone could... that anyone would do that to any animal."
"Sadly, it happens every day," Erik replied.
The five of us went into the house, and Ryan and Will took Christian up to the guest room to get him settled in. While they were gone, I started pulling together a big pile of loaded nachos. Erik helped me, pulling out ingredients and setting out plates. We'd all just sat down at the island when Kirk and Noah walked in.
"We're going... Oh, sorry," Kirk started, paused, then stopped, looking at Christian. "Damn... Sorry... I mean, I know you're Ryan's half-brother but... anyway."
"Pause a minute, Kirk," Noah said. "I think he's tongue tied cause you two look so much alike. Anyway, we were coming inside to let y'all know we're going into town for grub."
I'd known that Noah and Kirk were becoming friendly, something that had surprised Kirk based on their distant relationship during school, but I didn't know it had progressed to the `dinner' stage.
"Christian, this is our house guest Kirk," I said. "And this is our newest employee, Noah."
"Y'all can join us for nachos, if you like," Ryan offered.
They looked at each other, before Kirk said, "Sure."
For the next few minutes, there were more in-depth introductions of Noah and Kirk to Christian. Then the topic shifted to school and general plans for the next few weeks.
"The last week Christian's here, we're going to take Kirk to college," Will explained. "Once we drop him off, the three of us are going on to Virginia Beach for a few days of boardwalks, sand, and ocean."
"That sounds like FUN!" Noah exclaimed.
"Yeah, I'd love to go, but..." Kirk started and stopped. "I mean, I'd love to go to the beach too."
"But you'll be very busy once you get to school," Ryan said.
"Hehehehehe..." Noah gave a mischievous chuckle. "Yeah, busy with Chet."
I looked at Kirk in surprise, not realizing he'd opened up to Noah so much.
"Well..." Kirk said, as he blushed deep red. "We haven't seen each other in two weeks, and it will have been six weeks by then."
"More reason you'll be busy!" Noah teased.
"He's not coming out this month?" Will asked.
"I don't think so," Kirk admitted. "I didn't want to make the place any more crowded. Plus, it's a long drive, and we will see each other in four more weeks.
"The more the merrier," Erik said. "With all of you, we won't notice another mouth at the table."
"I'll let him know..."
"More nachos?" I asked.
"Ummm... YEAH!" Ryan said.
He hopped up from his stool, walked around the island, and grabbed a skillet. He reached into the fridge and grabbed a package of ground beef. Figuring out what he was doing, I got up and got the other ingredients out of the pantry. He sautéed the beef and added taco seasoning, while I melted the cheese and cut up some Jalapeño peppers. Will brought the platter over and spread another bag of chips onto it, Ryan added the meat, and I poured the cheese and peppers. We already had salsa on the island.
"YUMM!" Christian said, as he grabbed the first piece from the pile. "It's amazing you guys don't weigh a ton eating like this."
"We don't eat like this all the time," I countered. "And farm work keeps you active."
"I've lost about fifteen to twenty pounds since I started working here," Noah explained.
"I haven't really lost any weight," Kirk said. "But I have toned up a lot."
"Remember how much of an impact it had on Josh?" Will asked. Then he explained. "He ended up losing about fifteen pounds, but he toned up so much he lost about six inches on his waist."
"Wow," Christian said.
"It's not like you need to lose any weight," Ryan said to him.
"No, but I'd like to tone up more."
"We can work on that," Ryan said.
"How's the cooking going?" I asked.
"I'm learning. Ryan and I trade recipes over e-mail; and I'm getting better at timing a meal so that everything is ready at once," he explained. "The biggest challenge I have is not being able to get to the grocery store on my own. Dad's got to take me, and I'd like more time to check out everything. I try to figure out what I'm going to make and put together a shopping list; but I get to the store and they don't have everything I want, so then..."
"So then you need time to figure out how to improvise or adjust," Ryan finished for him.
"But Dad doesn't want to stay at the store for very long."
"Won't be that long till you get your license and can drive yourself," Will said. "Hey, you could practice some driving while you're here."
"You can use the driveways and such here to practice," Will continued. "That's how Ryan got to drive before he got his license."
"Dad's let me pull his truck around in the driveway a few times," Christian said. "But it's not that far."
"Well, you can drive the Jeep up and down the driveway, if you like," Ryan said. "I'll teach you how to shift."
"It's a manual?"
"All our vehicles are manual's," Erik interjected. "For the trucks it makes sense; you can control the power when you're towing something. I guess the Jeep just joined the club."
"I've always driven a manual," Ryan said. "So it didn't bother me that the Wrangler I picked out had a stick."
The conversation continued, and at a point, we'd polished off the second pile of nachos.
"Anyone want more?" I asked. "Or dessert?"
"Nothing for me," Noah said. "I should probably head home. I have to be here bright and early tomorrow."
We all said our good nights, and Noah took off. After the door closed, I turned to Kirk.
"So, Noah knows about you and Chet?"
"Yeah. It slipped out one day while we were painting the fence. You know that's not the most exciting job, so the two of us just keep talking. You wear out a topic and move on. Finally, it came around to dating."
"And you let him know about Chet," Ryan said.
"Yup, and he's really cool about it. He also indicated that he figured you four were couples. He also said it was cool, and he'd be real discrete about things."
"Good to know," Erik said. "We always try to keep our private lives private."
"Makes sense in this area," Kirk agreed. "That's part of why I'm excited about going to college... a little more freedom."
We continued talking around the island for a bit, then moved to the den to watch a bit of television before bed. Erik and I finally said our goodnights and climbed the stairs to our room.
I stripped down and pulled back the covers on the bed. Erik stripped and climbed in with me. He leaned over, gave me a good night kiss, and reached down to pull up the covers. But before he could grab the sheet, I leaned in and licked his left nipple.
"Play time?" he asked quietly.
I rolled over and straddled him, licking and nipping at his tits. I could feel his dick first plump up, then start to rise against my leg. I worked my way down his body licking and nibbling. By the time I worked down to his cock, Erik was at full mast.
I wrapped my right hand around his dick and started licking the drops of precum from the tip. Cleaning the exterior, I let my tongue work into the hole a bit searching for more. With my lips at the top, I slid it into my throat until my nose hit his pubic hair. I let my tongue work around the shaft as I kept it buried.
I started working up and down with my hand against my lips to add to his pleasure. Erik started pushing his dick in and out of my mouth, attempting to pick up the pace.
While I sucked, Erik started working his hands over my body. His massage felt really good, and he kept scooting around a bit till his fingers were able to massage my hole. He rubbed over it for a few minutes, then pulled them away a moment - they returned wet, and one slid easily into my ass.
His fingers triggered a need in me. I turned around, my mouth never leaving Erik's cock, and put my ass right over his face. My efforts were rewarded when I felt Erik's goatee start to tease my ass. I groaned as he pushed his hairy face into my ass crack. It tickled and felt good all at once. I held still and let him work his tongue into the crack till it touched my hole.
"Mmmmm..." I moaned around his cock.
He let his tongue twist and turn, playing over my hole. It felt wonderful having him tease me. I pushed back a little and felt the tip of his tongue slip in a bit. He started using his tongue to work my hole open, relaxing it. The spit from his tongue also started to lube it just a bit. Erik continued his ministrations on my ass as I continued to slobber all over his dick.
I felt Erik's hands pushing up on my ass. I lifted up a bit, but Erik kept pushing.
"On your back, Big Boy," he ordered.
I lay on my back and pulled my knees to my chest. Erik got his face between my ass cheeks and restarted his efforts on opening up my hole. His tongue slipped back in, and in this position, he was able to stream a lot more spit up into me.
I felt a second invader join his tongue. He pushed a finger in with his tongue to help open me up more. The two were doing a good job, and my hole twitched a lot, confirming to me I was ready to get fucked.
"Fuck me, Erik," I begged. "Fuck me hard! Fuck me deep! Fuck me fast! Just fucking fuck me!"
Erik pulled his tongue and finger out, and grabbed the lube from the nightstand. He quickly added a squirt to my hole, then slicked up his dick. He lined up the head with my hole and slowly eased in.
I reached up and wrapped my arms as far around his back as I could, pulling his body to me and pushing his dick deeper and deeper into my hole.
"Ah, that's it," I moaned.
"Fucking hot hole," he replied.
Erik pulled his dick back until only the head remained in my ass. Then he pushed slowly back in.
"That's it, Baby," I encouraged.
He continued the long, slow, almost leisurely fuck strokes. His dick was meant to be in my ass, and I clenched my hole as he slid in to show him how much I wanted it to stay there.
Erik's strokes hit all the right buttons with me. His cock kept sliding over my prostate, sending shivers throughout my body. Then he picked up the pace a bit and changed his angle. The head of his dick battered a new spot in my ass and I loved it - groaning as he did. He kept switching his pace and angle as the fuck continued. My hole spasmed as he continued to show me how much he knew about fucking it.
After a long period of pummeling my ass, he again changed angles, and this time, his dick lined up straight into my hole. He accelerated his pace... and I started clenching my ass around his dick on the in strokes.
"Oh, fuck!" he moaned.
I clenched a bit harder as his thrust slid in.
"Oh, FUCK!" he yelled.
His dick pulled out, then plunged in deeper.
"FUCK!" he screamed.
I felt his cock spasm in my ass and felt the warmth of his cum filling me up.
He collapsed on top of me, and I raised up a bit and kissed him. I would have liked him to sleep with his dick in my ass, but it slipped out as it softened, and he repositioned himself behind me. He spooned up to me and kissed my neck.
"Night, baby," he cooed.
The next morning, I was administering the medications to the horses that needed it when Doc Cranston walked into the stable.
"How are you doing this morning," he asked.
"Pretty good. And yourself?"
"Not half-bad. How are your guests?"
"Well, they looked OK when I walked in; however, I haven't spent any time with them as yet. Someone put feed and water in the paddock for them."
"You know the county isn't expecting you to do any care other than the basics... food, water..."
"We know, they told us yesterday; but we all discussed it thoroughly, and we want to be able to remove the isolation restrictions on them, as much to help them as to give us more flexibility."
"I understand. You know I did go over them before I called you."
"Yes, but the county only authorizes a basic exam. True?"
I finished up the last of the medications as we chatted, then we walked out to the paddock. The little filly slowly walked over to us as we entered the paddock. I grabbed a carrot out of my back pocket and offered it to her in the palm of my hand. She took it gently.
"Do you want me to move them into the barn, one at a time?" I asked.
"No. I figure I can do my work out here. Nice to be in the fresh air."
I took hold of the filly's bridle to keep her in position. Doc started his extended examination. It took a while to go over each of the three horses in depth. As Doc was finishing up with the mare, Erik walked into the paddock.
"How goes, Doc?" he asked.
"Good, good... I'm sticking with my earlier assessment. The only thing wrong with these three is malnourishment."
"So a few months of a good diet and they'll be fit and fine?" I asked.
"Yup. I'll give you a list of supplements to help them improve a bit faster."
"Will and Ryan were talking this morning about some of the nutrition factors that they learned in equine physiology."
"I should talk with them," Doc said. "They might have some of the latest tricks that I haven't heard as yet."
"They're in the office," Erik mentioned.
"All done here?" I asked.
The three of us left the paddock with me making sure the gate was securely latched.
"So, I hear you two actually learned something in college," Doc teased. "What did you two college boys decide about the diet for those three horses?"
"Har, har, har..." Ryan said. "Will and I were saying that we figured their diet should be built on a foundation of grass and hay diet, with a good amount of carbs added in."
"I figured we could mix up a nice oat, barley, and beet pulp mix that would give them a bit more energy," Will said. "But grass and hay as the basis would help them build a good foundation."
"Agreed, but..." Doc started.
"But we need to watch the carbs as they fill out. We don't want them to get aggressive," Will completed the sentence.
"Exactly, they've been abused, and could get rather aggressive as they gain strength."
"Once they get some weight back on, we should start a good exercise program as well. Shouldn't we?" Ryan asked.
"Definitely," Doc agreed. "Start now with lots of handling to let them build trust in people. Right now, they are too weak and docile, but as they recover, you can expect some rebellion. Sounds like you two really did learn something."
We all discussed what to expect over the next few weeks. As Doc indicated he needed to get going, I said. "Hey, Doc. Don't forget to come ride from time to time, and bring your wife!" I said.
"Will do," Doc replied. "I best be going. Y'all have a great day."
With that he left.
"Where's Christian?" I asked.
"He's in the house," Ryan said. "I told him I had a few things to get done in the office, and he wanted to get unpacked and really settled in his room."
"What all do you have planned for today?"
"Nothing much, really. I figured he could help me with chores, and then we'd go into town and pick up supplies. It's going to be a bit awkward - him being here and all, and me not having all the time off."
"What about having him really work the farm?" I asked. "He's definitely grown enough to help. He can ride with groups, do chores, etc."
"That might work," Ryan said. "I can talk to him about working. He really just wants to spend time with me, but that might let him do more!"
After a bit more conversation, I went back into the stable to get the rest of my chores done. I grabbed a sandwich around noon, and finally had things wrapped up a little after three. When I got into the house, I found Christian sitting alone at the kitchen island.
"Hey, how's it going?" I asked.
"Where is everyone?"
"Not sure about Erik. Will and Ryan went upstairs to clean up."
"You have a good day running errands?"
"Yeah, better than spending my day stuck at home."
"Well, next summer you'll have your license, so you should have a lot more freedom."
"True. But I don't have enough saved up to get a car, yet."
"Able to save much?"
"Not really. I babysit, get an allowance for doing chores, but really not much overall."
"How much do you have saved so far?"
"About five hundred... with that, it's gonna be one crappy car."
"You'll get there. Five hundred was more than I had saved at sixteen."
"Not sure what all I can do to earn more."
"Did Ryan talk to you about working on the farm? That should earn you a little."
"He mentioned working more, but nothing about pay?"
"We'll pay you for the work you do here."
"Wow! Cool! I didn't expect that."
"You're gonna work on the farm for three weeks, you should get the same as the other summer hires during their first year."
"Sweet! Dad's taught me not to look a gift horse in the mouth, but how much is the pay?"
"It's not a lot, six-fifty an hour."
"Holy crap ball... forty hours times six is two-forty plus twenty... that's seven-eighty in three weeks! Thanks, Tracer. I appreciate it."
"That assumes you work forty hours, might be more... might be less. Either way, you'll make some money toward that car. I'm gonna run upstairs and clean up so I can start dinner."
When I got to the top of the stairs, I stopped, thought a moment, turned the other direction, walked down the hallway, and knocked on the door of Ryan and Will's room. A moment later, Will opened the door.
"Hey. What's up?"
"I wanted to let you two know, I told Christian we'd pay him for the next three weeks of work."
"Huh?" Ryan grunted from behind Will.
"Look, he's gonna work for us. We should pay him. Plus, he was sitting downstairs looking a bit dejected. We got to talking, he mentioned he's trying to save to buy a car, so he won't be stuck at home next summer. He's only got about five hundred saved so far, so he's a bit down about it. I figure if he's going to work here for the next three weeks, we could pay him the same as other starting summer hires."
"You talked to Erik about it?" Will asked.
"Not yet. You two object?"
"Naw." Ryan said.
Will shook his head no, in agreement with Ryan.
"I'll tell Erik and deal with the consequences, if he objects."
"Cool," Ryan said. "I guess I know what to send Christian for his Christmas and sixteenth birthday presents... money for the car fund."
"Sounds like a good plan."
I turned and went to our room, stripped down, dumped my clothes in the hamper and walked into the bathroom. I opened the shower stall door, cranked the hot water, grabbed my towel, and put it on the hook next to the shower stall. While I waited for the hot water to make its way up from the basement, I brushed my teeth and took a piss.
I got into the shower and was just starting to lather up when Erik came in. He was already naked. He grabbed his towel from the rack, put it on the hook next to the shower, and opening the door to the shower joined me.
"Hey," he said.
He moved behind me and ran his tongue up my neck. As he did that, he reached passed me, pushed the button on the shampoo dispenser a couple times, then started to lather my hair. His fingers massaged the shampoo into my scalp, his thumbs making little circles as they moved around my head.
With my hair fully scrubbed, he pushed my head gently forward to rinse off the soap. With my head rinsed, he reached and got a bit of conditioner and worked in through my hair. He got soap from its dispenser and started washing my body with his hands. He spent a lot of time rubbing my nips - causing me to moan - and then, still reaching around me, down to my cock and balls. This caused more moans.
After getting my front clean, he started at my shoulders, and worked his way down. His strong hands kneaded my back as he cleaned it. His hands started working my ass from the sides inward. As he got to my crack, he reached up and got a bit more soap on his fingers, then traced along the crack - pushing his fingers in and finding my hole.
His fingers played with the edge of my hole, rubbing, poking, teasing. I moaned and pushed back a bit. This caused one of his fingers to slip in.
"Open up, baby."
Erik reached up again and got a bit more soap - this time two fingers slipped in and I pushed down to take them fully. Erik pulled back and slid three fingers in...
"Mmm..." I groaned.
He worked his fingers around, really opening me up.
Suddenly, my hole was empty... that didn't last but a moment, before I felt Erik's dick pushing between my cheeks.
"Fuck me!" I encouraged. I braced my hands against the wall in front of me and held steady as his cock found my opening and slid in deep. "That's it!"
Erik grabbed my hips and started thrusting in and out - not long strokes, but short and rapid - it felt FUCKING good! His left hand stayed on my hip, while his right hand slipped back around and, covered with soap, started sliding up and down my cock.
Between the feel of his cock in my hole and his hand on my dick, it didn't take long till I was on the verge of cumming.
"Oh, fuck... oh, fuck... of FUCK!" I screamed as I shot. My ass clenched as I convulsed.
"DAMN!" Erik bellowed, as I felt his cock unload in my ass.
I looked down and saw my cum dribbling down the tile. Erik wrapped his arms around me as we stood under the spray recovering.
"Now, that's the way to shower!" I told Erik.
As his dick softened, it slipped out of my ass, and I slowly pivoted to face him and kissed him deeply.
"My turn," I said, as I got shampoo to start cleaning him up.
Finally, clean and dry, we both pulled on shorts and t-shirts, and went downstairs to start dinner. As I got into the kitchen, we found Ryan giving Christian a cooking lesson.
"Thanks!" I said to Ryan. "My shower got interrupted, and I'm running late on dinner."
"No worries, I figured something delayed you" he replied with a wink and a shit-eating grin.
I know I started to blush, and looked over at Erik, who was turning a deep red.
"What's on the menu?" Erik asked.
"Pasta carbonara," Christian said.
"Wonderful," I replied. "Do you want me to set the table?"
"Sure," Ryan replied.
I grabbed plates, napkins, and silverware, and set the table. Erik and I then joined Will at the island to watch the cooking class. The three of us kept our conversation quiet so as not to interfere.
"Smells good," Erik said, as they were putting the final touches on things.
Kirk came inside just in time and the six of us sat down to a hearty meal; a great way to end a day.
I had the next day off, and caught Christian as he came in the kitchen for breakfast.
"You planning to work in that?" I asked.
"I don't have a lot of choices. I mean... I brought jeans, t-shirts, a few polos, some dress clothes."
"Understood. About ten this morning, come back to the house, and we'll drive into town and get you some proper clothes."
"What do you mean?"
"You see what we wear - long sleeve shirts that are light weight and light colored, jeans, boots, and a hat - there's a reason for that; you don't want to get sunburned, so you need to keep covered up."
"That's cool. I don't want to spend a lot of money, though," he warned.
"Oh, I'm taking you to the thrift shop for shirts. Someone's old white dress shirts make the best work clothing for us. Then we'll go over to Southern States and get you a hat."
"I've got a couple ball caps in my stuff."
"Those are OK, but it would be better to get a wide brimmed hat, you know - real cowboy! Keeps the sun out of your eyes and off your skin."
"Sounds like you have it down pat."
"You know... I do at this point. Seems like yesterday in some ways, and a lifetime ago in others, that I met Erik at the party and came here."
"How many years has it been?"
"I moved here in 1996, it's 2004... so, almost eight years."
"Wow, I was... seven!" He paused a few moments. "You love it here, don't you?"
"I love Erik, I love Ryan, I love the farm, I love the area, and I love the life I've got."
"I hope I'm as happy when I get to be your age."
"So, what's for breakfast?"
I'd been pulling stuff out of the fridge while we chatted.
"Omelets and hash browns," I explained.
"How can I help?"
"Start cracking eggs." I pushed two cartons of eggs and a bowl towards him.
"Fourteen, maybe fifteen," I said, and then thought a moment. "Make it fourteen."
"That's a LOT of eggs."
"Six hungry guys need a LOT of eggs."
He worked, cracking all the eggs while I pulled out the potatoes and got the skins cleaned. I chopped them and threw them onto the large cast iron grill pan that covered two of the burners.
"Onions... chop three of them. Do one finely for the omelets, and two chunky for the hash browns."
While he got the onions ready, I grabbed shredded cheese and some leftover ham out of the fridge, and diced it. With the onions ready, I mixed them into the potatoes, and put my bacon press down to develop a good crust on them.
I grabbed two Teflon skillets and put a small pat of butter into each. I got each started on a front burner, and grabbed the bowl of eggs.
"Since no one else has shown up yet, what do you want in your omelet?"
"All of it, but can I try?"
"Have you made one before?"
"Why don't you watch me make mine; then you can do yours."
He came over and watched as I ladled the eggs in and got my omelet going. As I finished up, I handed him the other pan.
"Morning," Ryan and Will both called out as they entered the kitchen. Erik was a few steps behind them.
"Morning," we both responded.
"We're making omelets and hash browns," Christian advised.
"Two fully loaded ones are ready," I said pointing to the one I'd done, and the one coming out of the pan by Christian.
"Y'all go ahead and eat," Will said. "We'll make ours."
Christian and I sat down at the island and chatted with the guys as they made their breakfast. Will and Ryan took care of making some for both Erik and Kirk. Since I was off, I told everyone to go ahead, get started on chores, and I would clean up the kitchen. I reminded Christian that I'd take him into town about ten.
"See you then," he said, as he walked out with Ryan and Will.
Erik brought his plate over to the sink, gave me a peck on the cheek, and squeezed my butt. "Have a good day off," he said.
I got a load of laundry started, cleaned our bathroom, changed the sheets on the bed, and checked the fridge and pantry to see what I needed to get from the store. I made a list, added the items that folks had written on the white board; then grabbed my coupons, checkbook, and the keys to my truck.
I started to walk out to the stable, but only made it half way when I saw Christian heading out towards me. He met me at the truck, and I drove us into town. Getting into town, I pulled in front of the thrift store.
Christian and I walked over to the men's section, and started going through the racks. We found a few good shirts in his size, and a couple for me.
"Do you want anything else?" I asked.
"Jeans? Work pants? Whatever..."
"I've never really shopped at a thrift store," he admitted.
"Well, I wouldn't buy my good clothes at this one... but it's good for work stuff. In this area, I don't think the thrift stores get much really good stuff."
Christian just looked at me for a moment, so I figured my point wasn't made.
"This isn't the most affluent area. When I lived in Memphis, there were a couple charity thrift stores in the better parts of town where folks would cast off last year's fashions that had been barely worn. I was able to afford good looking stuff on my coffee shop budget."
"Oh, cool. That musta been rough, your folks throwing you out... living alone."
"Yeah, it was hard. The worst was not being able to talk with, or communicate with Will and Patrick. I felt so alone. I mean, I lived with my buddy, Scott, so I wasn't truly alone, but..."
"But you were... you can be in a crowded room and be alone. I get that way some times. Dad's busy at work, my friends get busy, and then..."
I gave Christian a big hug.
"Yeah, loneliness sucks," he continued. "But when I'm out here, it's great."
We paid for the clothes, then drove over to Food City in Claypool Hill to pick up groceries. Finally, I drove us over to Tractor Supply in Pounding Mill.
"What all do you need here?" Christian asked, as we went through the doors.
"Really just the straw hat for you."
"A cowboy hat, something to keep the sun out of your eyes and protect your skin."
"Oh... when you said straw, I was thinking those funny things you see in old movies."
"No, no... cowboy hats come in felt or straw. The felt ones are for cold weather when you want to stay warm. The straw ones like this," I said, as I pulled a Cattleman crease straw hat off the shelf, "will let air pass through those holes, so you don't over heat."
"That one's cool."
We tried a couple on until we got his hat size right. Then I had him try a couple different shapes.
"I really like the way I look in this one," he said.
"I'm not surprised," I admitted. "Ryan wears a Pinch Front hat too, and it always looks good on him."
"I've never really paid attention to your hats."
"I wear a Cattleman," I said pointing to the hat on my head. "Erik wears a Cutter, which is a modified Cattleman. Will wears either a Pinch Front or a Diamond. The Diamond is similar, but has pinches on all three corners not just in the front."
"Why do you know all this?"
"You don't want to buy the wrong hat for someone any more than you'd buy the wrong size boots."
"What size is Ryan?"
"Hat or boot?"
"Hat - he's a seven and a half. Boot - he's a fourteen D."
"What about you?"
"I'm a seven and a quarter in a hat, and a thirteen D in a boot."
"What's this?" he asked pulling off the hat.
"That's a seven and three eighths," I read.
With the shopping done, we drove back to the farm; where Christian helped me get everything into the house.
"How about helping me get lunch pulled together while we rinse out your shirts."
"Where's the washer?"
"In the basement."
"I'll get them going then, do you have any other whites for the load?"
"I did the whites this morning. Just do a small wash."
"Take your hat with you."
"You can go downstairs, change into one of the shirts, pull on the hat and come upstairs all cowboy!"
Christian took off downstairs with the bag of shirts, and I started pulling things out of the fridge. By the time he was back, I had started a hearty lunch. While he helped me, I grabbed the walkie-talkie in the kitchen and called out.
"This is Tracer, lunch in fifteen guys."
I quickly got responses from Ryan and Will. It took a bit longer till I heard from Erik and Kirk. By the time they got to the house, Christian had gone downstairs to put the shirts in the dryer. We had a good chat while everyone ate.
As he finished eating, I gave Christian a look. He got the hint, and went downstairs. A few minutes later, he came upstairs in his jeans, black boots, white button-down shirt, and hat.
"Cowboy Christian!" Will exclaimed, as Christian cleared the basement door. Ryan and Erik, who were facing away from the door, turned.
"WOW!" Ryan said.
"Damn," Erik added. "Now, if that doesn't bring back memories."
"Huh?" Christian grunted.
"You really do look like your brother at that age. Doesn't he?" Erik asked, looking directly at me.
I thought for a moment about the young man that I'd met when I first came to the farm, and I tried to picture him carefully.
"Yup, same lady-killer good looks." I said.
"Or in Ryan's case, Will-catching good looks," Erik said.
I could see red spreading from Christian's neck up into his face.
"Go stand next to him with your hat on," Will said to Ryan.
Once Ryan was in position, and before anyone else could say anything, Kirk chimed in.
"Stud-one and stud-two!"
Christian beamed as Ryan hugged him.
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This is Chapter Seventy Two of Double Trails. I attempt to respond to all feedback. Contact me at: BndgDawg@gmail.com
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