Sentinel Mountain
Chapter Forty-eight
Horses and Ponies
 By Sequoyah
          Edited by Jesse and Scott
            Prior warning apply.

The two lovers stood, looking across the valley, Josh's arms wrapped around Alex, silent, entranced by the lush green vista before them. Alex turned slowly in Josh's arms, pulled his lips to his in a hot kiss. Josh opened his mouth to his lover's tongue and the taste of Alex filled his being. Their kiss became more and more passionate as their tongues did battle. Josh was hard, his iron cock gushing precum. Alex was as well. Josh realized afresh where they were and the danger they were in. He broke the kiss and said, “Barefoot Boy, it will take us half an hour or more to reach the House where your medicine is. I'm surprised you haven't reacted to our love-making.”

Alex looked at Josh as a spasm hit him. Josh's hard cock quickly went soft, but there was no throwing up on Alex's part and he was fully alert, looking into Josh's eyes as several other spasms shook his body. After a shiver, he said, “Babe, I hope nobody's looking,” and dropped his pants revealing cum-soaked underwear, “but you just sent me over the edge.” Josh pulled the front of Alex's trunks from his body in order to get them over his still hard cock and peeled them from his body.

As he pushed the trunks down, Josh saw that Alex had shot one hell of a load in them. His hard cock was cum slick and Josh took a risk and took it in his mouth, sucking the last cum from it and then licked it clean. Josh then helped Alex out of his cum-soaked trunks and Alex pulled his jeans over his round butt and soft cock. Then he said, “I think we've run enough risk.”

“But what a reward, at least for me!” He gave Josh a quick kiss and asked, “Want me to give you some relief?”

“Babe, I don't know.”

“Well, I don't think we have to worry about me getting an erection in the next five minutes. He moved behind Josh, dropped his pants, pulled his trunks down and started stroking his cock. Josh leaned against his lover and was soon groaning then shot again and again, anointing Sentinel Rock. Alex quickly moved around Josh and cleaned his cock as his lover had done his.

Josh drove down the mountain and when they reached Louise's place, she and Shane were sitting on the porch cuddling. As soon as Louise saw them she yelled, “Hey! Come join us.”

Josh stopped the Jeep and they walked to the porch. “I guess this means you two are more than friends?”

“I think that would be a safe assumption. You two been to Sentinel Rock?”

“Sure have,” Alex said, “man, what a view.”

“There's another one close by if you climb the fire tower.”

“Can I take a raincheck? I think I have pushed my luck far enough today.”

“Any time. You can walk around the side of the house, but that's a pretty steep climb, too. If I'm not here, go on in. Like all the houses on the Mountain, my door is only locked at night if I am here, otherwise, we trust each other. You can go through the loft and save yourself the climb around the house.”

“Thanks,” Alex said.

They chatted with Louise and Shane for half an hour, then left the two on the porch and drove back to the House, stopping by the waterfall.

Monday morning, Alex, Josh, Nelson and Walt flew to Asheville to pick up Mr. VanWinkle. The weather was perfect for flying and Alex and Nelson got a thrill at being able to see the mountains since it had been night when they flew in from Atlanta. Mr. VanWinkle met them at the airport and they flew back to Sentinel Mountain. Josh picked up the black plastic box with Elijah's ashes and Alex drove him and Mr. VanWinkle to Sentinel Rock at eleven. Fortunately, the stiff breeze sweeping the Rock was blowing toward the valley when Josh opened the box, took out the bag of ashes and cast them from the edge. The breeze carried them in a great fan shape out and over the valley as the three men stood in silence. After several minutes, they went back to the Jeep without speaking.

Half-way down the mountain, Mr. VanWinkle said, “Josh, I sense you have decided to make Sentinel Mountain home.”

“I have. I guess I still have to prove I'm going to do something constructive with it and I think there's no doubt that will be the re-opening of Boys' Camp, which, by the way, will need to be renamed, I think, something honoring Elijah. If only we could get the state to move, we could have it open by the new year, but right now that's a big 'if.' Physically it is in good shape but, after all, it has been closed for years. There will have to be some renovations and updating, but I don't want to start until I have some idea what the state will require. Shane seems to be getting the runaround, so we're stuck.”

“Damn,” Mr. VanWinkle said, “I thought everything was all smooth in Raleigh. Let me make a couple phone calls when we get back to the House. By the way, I talked to June yesterday. I could not believe what he and Bull pulled off.”

“You know Bull?” Josh asked.

“Sure do. I have known him for about twenty years I guess. I had a slam-dunk civil case against a crook here in western North Carolina, but he and his money disappeared. Mentioned that at a family reunion and June said, 'What you need is Alessio Bull Marino, Tracer of Lost Persons.' He gave me phone number and said, 'Give Bull a call. Tell him I sent you.' I wasn't too happy about spending more money on skip tracers since I had a couple who'd failed already, but I gave Bull a call and he had him within a week. Son of a bitch was living in Asheville as a woman!”

When we got back to the House, Mr. VanWinkle went to Josh's office, closed the door and didn't emerge for half an hour. When he came out, Josh said, “Mr. VanWinkle, lunch is ready.” Josh had asked Shane to have lunch with him as he wanted him in on anything Mr. VanWinkle came up with. He had also asked Walt and Cam to join them since he had kept Walt too busy to do any grocery shopping. Given the number of people around the table, he had asked Janie to set the dining room table.

When they were seated, Janie and Alma put the food on the table and sat down also. Josh introduced everyone. When he finished, Alexander piped up with, “That's not Mr. VanWinkle!”

“That's not Mr. VanWinkle,” Joshua parrotted.

Susan was embarrassed. “Sharp fellows you have there, Susan. I'm not the Mr. VanWinkle you know, he's June. I'm Jordan.”

“You're Mr. Jordan?” Alexander asked.

“That's right. Mr. Jordan VanWinkle.”

“Ok,” Joshua said and dug into his lunch. “Uncle Alex, will horses be here after lunch?”

“After your nap, Joshua, you know it's after your nap.”

“Ok, short nap.”

“A long nap,” Alex grinned.


A short while later, the two scampered down from their high chairs and Alexander said, “You need to put us down for our nap, mommy.” Susan excused herself and went with the boys upstairs.

“I can see where things are going to be lively on Sentinel Mountain for some years ahead,” Mr. VanWinkle said. “So, they are your grandsons, Alma?”

“They are.”

“Delightful and amazingly well-behaved for three-year-olds. Great vocabulary as well.”

“Thank you. You can credit their parents for that and they do have their three-year-old moments.”

“Their father not here?”

“Not yet. He's due this afternoon with the horses.”

“Yes, the boys seemed pretty excited about the horses. You going into the horse business, Josh?”

“I'm in the horse business. I guess you could call this the east coast branch,” he laughed. He then explained how he happened to get in the horse business. “At this point, Sentinel Mountain station will be Mustangs and ponies. The boys don't know it, but they were selected by two ponies well over a year ago, but when they moved to Oakland, the ponies stayed in Utah. They are also coming. Within the next six months, I will add Mangalarga Marchador. I am purchasing five mares and a stallion from my Portuguese teacher who is having to give them up because he is no longer able to care for them and I wanted to breed them anyway. Nelson is, according to his dad, one of the best riding teachers he has ever known. If he likes the Mountain and wants to stay, at least until he has to go away to finish college, he will be riding teacher for Boys' Camp. Mavis, a teacher from Boulder who teaches English as well as Western riding and was Alex's and my trick riding teacher, will also teach here part time. She will be coming soon to design the riding school. Winston, the twins' father and Alma's son, will teach the hands-on part of auto mechanics -- I guess, more accurately, internal combustion engine mechanics -- and operate a garage here on the mountain.”

“Why not teach all of it?”

Josh felt he had placed himself in a bind, but Alma came to the rescue. “Winston had a very high fever when he was less than a year old. It damaged part of his brain. Book learning is very difficult for him.”

“He is, however,” Josh said, “a genius in other ways, such as his ability to deal with engines, to negotiate and to ferret out stuff. He worked for Blankenship in purchasing for some months before Kelly and after when I hired him back before I asked him to come here. He saved the company hundreds of thousands with his negotiating skill and his ferreting out those taking kickbacks, over-bidding contracts, other shady tactics. He will also be an example for boys who have disabilities in some areas."

“Sounds indeed as though you have done a lot of serious thinking about Boys' Camp.”

“Very serious.”

“Well, we'll talk more after lunch.”

The rest of lunch was spent talking about other aspects of life on the Mountain, Alex's need to return to Boulder and other related subjects, but nothing truly serious. When they finished lunch, Mr. VanWinkle suggested he, Shane and Josh discuss Boys' Camp and the two went into Josh's office. When Josh asked Alex if he'd like to join them, he said he thought he best rest awhile and went into their bedroom.

“Josh, I am very excited at the prospects of having Boys' Camp alive again and I really like the idea of it being resurrected with a new name honoring Elijah. It's a fitting tribute to him. It was very close to Elijah's heart and it did an amazing job. Elijah was years ahead of his time in what boys growing into men need to know and do, in his ideas about education, in his belief in the importance of work and the humanities. Times have changed and the technology is vastly advanced over what he had to work with, but his thinking is as sound as ever. That having been said, an awful lot of the education establishment disagrees. While most lament the standardized test as a measure of success or failure, in practice, students and teachers stand or fall on standardized tests. That presents both a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge is to overcome the resistance of educational officials in Raleigh to your proposal for a charter school and the opportunity is one to show them there is a better way.”

“Seems to me the opportunity is non-existent until we accomplish the first.”

“True. That is why a group of inspectors who are in agreement with what I see as your goals will be here within the next few days to go over the facilities with a fine-toothed comb and make recommendations. We both know what is here is better than ninty-nine percent of the public schools, but with state inspectors being nit-picky, we can make sure there are no legitimate problems with the facilities. For example, children and teachers sometimes have an allergy to chalk dust, so white marker boards are now the thing. I haven't looked, but I suspect the classrooms now have green blackboards as I have heard them called.”

“They have, but Shane suggested we install the new electronic marker boards. Read a report about their positive impact on students in a poor South Carolina school.”

“Good. That's another thing. Back up anything out of the ordinary or not the latest educational fad with good solid research. Sounds as though you have a good man here in Shane.”

“Excellent.” Shane actually blushed.

“My second suggestion is to bring in an outsider who is capable of writing in bureaucratese, but who is knowledgeable and who supports your, and Shane's, educational philosophy and have him or her write your proposals. You will have the support of some very powerful political friends in Raleigh and Sylvan county, but bureaucrats can scuttle any project by delaying tactics and nit-picking.”

“Any suggestions? Blankenship has people who deal with government contracts all the time and have to deal with petty bureaucrats, but of course there is not a philosophy to peddle. Winston is a negotiator par excellence, but not able to understand or discuss educational theory. Shane knows exactly what we want to happen here.”

“And you have the facilities and financial backing for the project, that's your team. I know a woman who can put the proposal together and when it's ready, I'll arrange a sit-down with people who will have the power to approve it, but then is when you need someone ready to deal with the bureaucrats and their throwing around the little power they have.”

“When can I meet the woman?”

“You and Shane get what you want in as good shape as you can and give me a call. I'm sure she can come on short notice....”

“No! No! Don't hurt me!” A scream came from the bedroom. After the initial words, there was just one long wailing scream after another. It had to be loud because the three men heard it clearly in the office behind a closed door and Josh was sure Alex had closed the door when he went in to take a nap. He hoped he had not locked it. Josh shot out of his chair and rushed to the bedroom prepared to do what was required to reach Alex. The door was not locked and when he burst into the room, he saw Alex lying in the bed, bound by the sheet wrapped around his body. In his tossing and turning, he had managed to wrap himself like a mummy and, Josh supposed, thought he was being restrained.

Josh went to the bed, crawled on it and started unwinding it from around Alex who was still screaming at the top of his lungs. When Josh finally freed one arm, Alex swung at him and landed a very solid punch on the side of his face. Josh saw it coming and quickly turned his head or it would have landed in his eye. He realized he needed to free Alex and wake him, but Alex was now strong enough to do him damage, so he grabbed the edge of the sheet and simply unrolled Alex. When he was free, Alex stopped screaming and started whimpering, “Don't hurt me, don't hurt me.” Josh again climbed on the bed, hugged Alex to himself and started stroking his arm.

Suddenly two bundles of concern flung themselves on the bed and got on either side of Alex and wrapped their tiny arms around him, lay their heads against his back and patted his back saying, “S’all right, Uncle Alex. Bad dream. S’all right,” again and again.

Alex opened his eyes, saw Josh and kissed him then looked down and saw the tiny arms around him. Josh released him and he turned and pulled the twins to himself and kissed each on the head. “Thank you for waking me up.”

“You having a bad dream. S’all gone away?” Alexander asked. Alex nodded.

“Good!” Joshua proclaimed. “Now see the horses.”

“Are the horses here?” Josh asked.

“They here, they here,” the two said jumping up and down.

“Well, you two wait right outside the door and as soon as I get dressed, we'll go see them,” Alex said.

“Come on, Zander,” Joshua said. “Hurry, Uncle Alex.”

They went outside and as Alex dressed, he asked, “Was it as bad as I thought?”

“It was bad,” Josh said and kissed him. “I heard you screaming in the office.”

“I dreamed I was tied to the bed and one of the nurses was hitting my cock and balls with a cattle prod, grinning as he asked, 'Still queer, faggot?'”

“Bad, but when you woke up, you were not in really bad shape. I think you are making good progress.”

“A pair of boys didn't hurt,” he said. “I cannot imagine they did what they did when the horses were waiting.”

“Good genes, I guess, but they do seem to have good instincts. Let's go see the horses.”

Rob and Susan were waiting outside in the Jeep when we emerged. “I see you were found by the hoodlums,” Susan said.

“Watch what you are calling my rescuers,” Alex said as he climbed into the Jeep and reached down and picked up a boy and put him on his lap. “You'll hear the whole story later,” he added as Josh picked up the other boy.

“What did you do with Mr. VanWinkle?” Josh asked.

“Janie took a load in the SUV. He insisted he was staying until all was well and really wanted a look at the horses, so he went along. Everyone else is at the horse station waiting for you and the horses to arrive. The vans hadn't reached the valley when I left. Sally called and said they were fifteen or twenty minutes away and, of course, the road to the horse station from the entrance will mean slow moving.”

The horse station was on the opposite end of the valley from the cattle station, behind Boys' Camp and the residences in that area. There were no paved roads in the valley and the road to the horse station had been a mere trail until it had recently been made wider and graveled and had not settled, so Josh knew the vans would have to take it easy.

When they arrived, the entire population of the valley was perched on the new corral fence, waiting in eager expectation.The two boys were not about to let their uncles out of their sight, so they rode on Josh and Alex's shoulders until there were lifted off and perched on the fence. Mr. VanWinkle can over and asked Alex how he was doing and was assured he was fine.

Suddenly the car with Sally, Brenda and Winston rounded the corner and came to a halt in front of the stables. As soon as he had stopped, the door opened and Winston came running to the fence, grabbed the boys in a hug, then Susan. He kissed the boys and still holding them, embraced Susan and the two kissed, not a 'in the presence of Mom' kind of kiss, although Mom was present. Sally and Brenda were right behind him and Josh said, “Ok, folks, this is Winston, the father of Alexander and Joshua and not incidentally, Susan's husband. The two ladies are Sally, my partner in the horse business and her wife Brenda. I'll let all you Sentinel Mountain people introduce yourselves.”

As he was speaking, the first van came into view and the boys were giving Winston a hard time, bouncing in his arms. He finally sat them on the fence and said, “You better be still or you will fall off.” They stopped bouncing, but with difficulty.

The van pulled up to the stables and the drivers got out and stretched. Josh walked over to them, introduced himself and asked if they could begin unloading the horses. One of the drivers said their job was to deliver them and they were finished and ready for a hot shower and at least twelve hours in the bed. “As soon as we have the horses unloaded I am sure we can supply both and thanks for taking care of the horses. I'm afraid things would have been in bad shape had you guys not taken over.”

“You are right about that. Joel and I are real horse people and these are magnificent animals, including the ponies. Neither of us has ever dealt with Mustangs before and I feel honored the boss called on us to take over. I guess he learned his lesson about overbooking and hiring drivers who have no experience transporting animals.”

“Well, again, thank you and we'll get you to the House and a hot shower and bed soon. Lunch as well and you are welcome to stay on the Mountain as long as you like.”

“Thank you. The boss has given us until day after tomorrow before we have to head back to headquarters.”

Winston lowered the ramp and went into the van and came out with the stallion, a beautiful buckskin. As soon as he was down the ramp, Sally went in and brought out a bay mare. She needed a good currying and brushing, but so did the buckskin stallion. Brenda brought out a sable mare and Nelson went inside and came out with a buckskin. “Beautiful!” Alex exclaimed. The horses were put in stables with fresh water always available and a small feeding of grain. Alex and Josh brought out two more, both bays. As Sally passed Josh she said, “Josh, I thought I'd give up the black mare we captured last fall, but Brenda reminded me you have the twins which will be breeding mares in two, two and a half years. We have seen herds in Arizona and Montana with black mares and we plan to make captures in both. With Princess and the twins and semen from a black capture stallion, you will have a good start toward a black strain. With our black mare and semen from Prince, we'll also aim for an occasional black.”

“They are all beautiful,” Josh said as Brenda and Nelson entered the trailer. Brenda walked out another sable and Nelson came out leading two ponies which he put in the corral. The boys did not recognize them and looked disappointed. The driver pulled the van out of the way and parked it, making way for the second van from which five horses and three more ponies were led. When all the horses were in stalls, Janie and Sherry, Rob's wife, took the drivers to the house for showers and meals. Janie asked if it was all right to put them in rooms with twin beds and Josh told her she was in charge of the house. “Do what you think best.”

Nelson and Sally made one last trip into the van and brought out the last two ponies. The boys saw the black and Palomino at once and started calling to them. The ponies' ears pricked up and they whinnied. As soon as they were in the corral, they went to their boy and started nuzzling to be petted. Before anyone could stop them, the boys were off the fence and in the corral with the seven ponies. Everyone froze for a moment since they were in a corral with seven ponies, three of which were totally untrained. Alex and Nelson were over the fence in a flash and handed the boys over the corral fence to Susan and Winston, two very confused boys it was plain to see. No-one wanted them to become frightened of ponies and horses, but all were weak-kneed over the idea of them being in a corral with the unbroken ponies. Josh said, “Boys, the corral is for horses and big people. You must never go inside. We'll bring the ponies out.” He and Nelson brought the two ponies around to where the boys were sitting on the fence and put each boy on his pony. They promptly threw their arms around the ponies' necks and started petting them.

Sally and Brenda had bought saddles for the two and Nelson and Alex took them from Winston when he handed them from the van. They buckled them on and put a boy in the saddle and adjusted the stirrups. The ponies stood perfectly still and they didn't act up at all. Susan watched over them as they rode around the corral and back. They had no opportunity to ride since the family had moved to San Francisco and the ponies remained in Utah, nonetheless, they were riding well.

Josh, Alex, Nelson, Sally and Brenda all went to work currying and brushing the horses. As they finished with one, they turned it into the corral until it contained the buckskin stallion and twelve mares: three sorrels, one with coffee points, one with black and a blond sorrel; two sables, Sally said they were confirmed sables from their DNA; three paints, one black and white and two brown and white; three bays and a black. All were beautiful. The gathered Mountain population sat on the corral fence and just watched the animals.

When they finished with the horses, they went to the pony stables and started grooming them. “I guess you can’t count, Sally, I see seven ponies here. I thought we agreed on half a dozen.”

“Well, Stud, I figured even a gay man would realize it takes a stallion before a mare can drop a foal.”

“I’ll admit I guess I thought the six would include a stallion and I am embarrassed to say I didn’t notice one was a stallion.”

“The other Palomino is a stallion. I expect we’ll be exchanging sperm among you, Jack and myself. He had a black stallion and I have a paint.”

“Sounds like we’re in the pony business sure enough.”

“You’ll sell three ponies before you sell a horse and, by the way, Jack and I have discovered we need to check out the buyers. Too often a pony looks like a toy to a spoiled brat and cute to mommy, and something daddy wanted when he was a boy. Add a major temper tantrum from spoiled brat when told ‘No pony’ to that mixture and you have a recipe for disaster when spoiled brat gets a pony to shut up. Also make sure you don’t sell to a real sleazy ‘pony rides’ operator. They are also a disaster for the ponies. There are some good ones, but mostly those do not travel from small town to small town. Hell, Jack and I check out potential owners as if they were adopting one of our children. Horses? Just be sure people know keeping a horse is a costly proposition.”

“Thanks for the advise. Lesson I won’t have to learn the hard way.”

Sentinel Mountain
Chapter Forty-nine
Champion Bronc Rider and a Magic Sorrel

“Any of these broke to the saddle?” Nelson asked Sally.

“I'd hardly call any of them broke to the saddle, but they all have had a saddle on. Both the buckskin mare and stallion have had a saddle on with a bag of oats across it, but none have been ridden by a person. As you could guess, none of them took kindly to a saddle,” she laughed. “The stallion... well, you know about males. He is a stubborn one. The mare is sneaky. You really have to watch her.” The stallion was a bit darker than the mare and had black points, The mare's tail and mane were a dark coffee color, two beautiful animals.

“Any problem with me trying to saddle the stallion, Josh?” Nelson asked.

“Be my guest,” Josh responded. Nelson went to the tack room and Josh was surprised when Nelson returned and had a lariat he had brought from Utah. He was also carrying a saddle and blanket which he placed on the corral fence. Nelson then moved slowly into the corral until he had a clear shot at the buckskin stallion, spun the lariat like the expert he was and dropped it over the stallion's neck. The stallion immediately reared up on his hind legs and snorted. He gave Nelson a hard time as he moved slowly toward the horse, speaking softly. When he reached the horse, he stroked his neck, hanging onto the lariat while the horse pulled against it, trying to get away. Nelson was finally able to get him to the corral fence and tie his halter to a post. He started rubbing his hands over the horse and the horse was in a dilemma. On the one hand, he wanted nothing to do with the man and on the other, he was thoroughly enjoying being groomed. He finally relaxed and seemed to be dozing when Nelson finished and threw the blanket on his back. He was no longer dozing! Nelson kept stroking him and speaking softly and when he had calmed down, Nelson put the saddle on his back. He was having not of that! He tried to buck it off and did, finally. Nelson moved him until he could safely pick up the saddle and put it on the horse again. It took a while, but Nelson finally got the saddle on the horse, untied him, grabbed the saddle horn and was atop the horse in a single fluid movement. Neil had said Nelson was a good rider, but Alex said, “The boy rides like he's glued in the saddle.”

He spoke too soon as Nelson left the saddle headed for the ground. Somehow, he managed to land half on his feet, still holding the reins. He started speaking softly, approaching the horse, stroked his neck when he reached him, still speaking softly. Once again, he grabbed the saddle horn and swung into the saddle. The horse started his tricks again, but Nelson was wise to him. After he had settled down a bit, Nelson asked the gate to the pasture be opened and he rode through and gave the horse free rein. The stallion headed down the pasture in a full-speed gallop and when Nelson turned him he came back the same way. Nelson turned him and he again started out flat out, but three quarters of a mile from the corral, the spectators saw him slow down in a fast trot, a gait he could have maintained all day. When they came back, Nelson motioned for the gate to be opened and when he had the horse tied to a post, stroked him as he said, “There's going to be argument since Mustangs supposedly have a limited number of gaits according to the experts, but I'll bet money this stallion has more than most horses, period. I can feel it in him.”

“That Mustangs have a limited number of gaits is bull,” Sally said, “I have definitely seen plenty.”

Winston was leading the ponies toward the corral and it was clear the tiny bodies were tiring even though they claimed to be ready for more. Winston brought the ponies around to the stable, picked up a couple of crates and tied up the ponies. He sat the crates beside them and had the boys dismount, instructing them how to do it correctly. The boys were still standing on the crates where they could reach the horses and Winston gave them curry combs and showed them how to curry the ponies. “That man knows education regardless of whether or not he can spout theory. Privilege carries responsibility, a very important lesson most adults haven't learned,” Mr. VanWinkle said.

Sally and Brenda came walking up and Sally said, “Josh, I didn't believe you when you described the pastures here. I thought you were exaggerating, but I see it is true. Glad the horse pastures haven't been mowed so they have mature grass. There's never enough grass in Utah for grass foundering to be a problem, but it could be a major problem here.”

“We’ll feed hay before putting the horses in the small holding pasture and keep an eye on them. We can round them up mid-morning and hold them until evening before releasing them to graze if needs be.”

“I talked to a vet and he gave me a prescription for an antibiotic to inhibit fermentation of the grass sugars in their gut and by careful addition of grass, the antibiotic and feeding hay, all should be well. Brought the antibiotic with me and a copy of the prescription. He also warned me about a fescue fungus which can wreak havoc with reproduction from breeding to birth and beyond.”

“Rob tells me they have never allowed fescue to be sown here. In fact, the only seeding has been with native grasses and wildflowers. I understand there are flowers blooming April until November most years, so we don't have to worry.”

Nelson came walking up and Josh said, “Nelson, I see you can ride, but how are you at training horses?”

“Honestly? Not as good as some, better than most. Alex, you ever help break horses?”


“Think you can stay on one like that buckskin beauty, the mare?”

“Not sure. I can try.”

“Can you handle a lariat?”

“That I can do.”

“What say you take that one and I'll take the stallion again and we'll work on the two?”

“What about me?” Cam asked.

“Ever been on a horse?” Nelson asked.

“No, but I can learn.”

“You best learn to ride before you take on a wild horse. I’ve been riding since I was the twins' age and you saw how I couldn't stay on. Maybe in a week or so, we'll have a horse you can try. Ok?”

“Sure,” Cam said. “I guess it's not easy.”

“Matter of fact, it's not,” Alex said. “My ass will probably be on the ground in less than a minute and I, too, have been riding ever since I could sit in a saddle.” He went to the tack room and got a blanket and saddle and filled a pocket with oats. He put the saddle and blanket on the corral fence.

Alex walked into the holding pasture, moving slowly. He carried a lariat, but wanted to see if he could catch the horse without it. When he was approaching the middle of the small pasture, the horses had all stopped grazing and stood looking at him.

A bay walked toward Alex, then stopped. Alex stopped as well. She took a few more steps toward him and he started speaking to her very softly. She took a few more steps and stopped. Alex was perfectly still except for speaking, “Come on, beautiful. Come to Alex, lady.” He continued speaking as he raised his arm slowly, holding it in front of his chest, moving his hand in a 'come to me' motion. Nelson had also stopped and watched as the horse took another few steps and stretched her neck as though she was reaching for Alex's hand, but was afraid to get too close. He kept talking and motioning with his hand as Josh remembered the twins had done when they were looking at the ponies. They had ended up with the  selecting a boy rather than the other way around, the way Prince had selected Josh. The bay was finally close enough to nip at Alex's fingers with her lips and did so, he supposed tasting the salt on them or maybe getting his scent. She stepped closer and Alex reached up slowly and started to scratch between her ears. When he touched her, she threw her head back, but then lowered it and he scratched between her ears which she clearly enjoyed. He stroked down the side of her face and grasped her halter. She threw her head back, but he held on, holding with one hand, stroking with the other and speaking to her.

In a few minutes, Alex started gently leading her toward the fence where he tied her to a post. He rubbed her neck and across her back, She liked that, but certainly did not like being tied. When he extended a handful of oats, she shied away from him, but gradually extended her neck until she could lip the oats into her mouth. She pulled away again while she ate them. Alex continued speaking softly and when the mare stretched her neck and nipped at his fingers with her lips, he again filled his hand with oats and she grabbed them and did not back away. He took the blanket from the fence and put it on her back and she promptly shook it off. Keeping an eye on her hooves, he picked it up and put it on her back and held it there when she tried to shake it off. She gave up when it was leave the blanket on or not get the oats in Alex's hand.

While she chewed the oats, he put the saddle on her back and quickly cinched it. The horse of course tried to get it off and Alex pulled the cinch tight as she carried on. When he was sure the saddle was secure, he grabbed the saddle horn and, as Nelson had done, got in the saddle smoothly. The bay mare stood still, but was trembling. Alex kept rubbing her neck and talking to her as he gradually turned her head and she started walking very sedately around the corral. Alex was thinking, “What's going on?” when she went from a sedate walk to a fast trot, bent double in a buck and he had to hang on with both hands when she came down on all fours, jarring his whole body and causing him to bite his tongue when his teeth came together. She then put on as good a display of her displeasure as the buckskin stallion had done. Following Nelson's example, he asked the gate to the pasture be opened and he rode through, the mare again being very sedate.

Suddenly she became the untamed horse she was and took off, almost catching Alex unaware. He let her gallop at full speed to the end of the pasture, turned her and headed back to the stable. He restrained her until she was moving at a fast trot. Alex knew the trot was best for her to throw him and thought he was prepared when she suddenly burst into a gallop headed directly for the corral. As she approached, she suddenly lowered her head and came to an abrupt stop, her aim to throw Alex over her head. Alex was headed in that direction when she again went from a standstill to fast trot, giving Alex the momentum he needed to execute a trick rider move, a kind of out of the saddle, bounce off the ground, back in the saddle. To say the mare was confused was an understatement. She stopped, shook her head and snorted. Alex got her moving again and rode her around the pasture trying her at different speeds to see how she moved.

Nelson joined him, riding the stallion, and the two continued riding, changing gaits to get the feel of the two horses. They finally raced to the end of the pasture and back and both horses were ready for a rest and they slowed them to an easy walk to cool down. Back at the corral, they tied the horses and curried and brushed them until their coats gleamed, put them in a stable and fed them half a scoop of oats. In the days that followed, both men raided an old apple tree and carried apples for the horses they rode. They set up a schedule and ended each day riding the bay and stallion, swopping so the horses wouldn't attach themselves to only one rider. After that first day, Josh joined them until they were working with six horses, hoping to get them to the point where Cam and others could ride in relative safety.

After Nelson and Alex ended their ride, Josh said he needed to get Mr. VanWinkle back to Asheville and invited Cam to join him. As they flew back, Josh and Walt discussed the need to swop planes as the turbo was a little much for flying a single person from Asheville and Walt needed the small plane for pilot's training. As soon as they reached cruising altitude, Walt said, “Josh, why don't you let Cam take the co-pilot's seat?” Josh did and Walt let him 'fly' for a while before Josh again took over as co-pilot for the descent and landing. Of course Cam was about to burst when he got to the House, but then he needed all the help he could get in overcoming his past and opening his future.

Alex and Nelson were in showers when they got back. Winston said he guessed they were trying to wash away some of the bruises and aches from their morning of horse breaking. When they came down, Josh had them and Sally and Brenda join him in his office to talk about the trip back to Wellsburg, Boulder and San Francisco. Sally said she and Brenda had planned on being gone for a week and a half to two weeks. Alex needed to get back and check in with Shawn, but he had talked to him for an hour from the Mountain and Shawn thought everything was going as well as he expected, then added, “actually, better” and definitely thought the Mountain was doing him good. Alex did too. The final decision was Josh would fly them all to Boulder, drop off Alex, fly Sally and Brenda to Wellsburg in the small plane and he and Walt would fly on to San Francisco.

He would spend a day with Luc while Walt made final arrangements for selling his house and getting rid of the things he still had in the house. Josh would fly back to Boulder in the small plane alone while Walt would find a co-pilot and fly the large one back to Sentinel Mountain. Josh wasn't uneasy about flying the plane to the Mountain by himself, but Walt reminded him his insurance required a co-pilot. They finally agreed to leaving on the following Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Josh and Shane met Tuesday and Wednesday getting their proposal in order. They planned to meet each morning at ten, take a break for lunch and work from one until four. Thursday, they would take a day-long break in order to come back to the proposal fresh Friday. Josh and Alex were up before eight each morning and after breakfast, explored the surroundings.

Susan and Winston had looked over the two houses she thought would fit them with the addition of an apartment for Alma. Winston took a look at both and immediately decided one was definitely better for them than the other and laid out the reasons why. There was, of course, no question about the matter once he had explained his choice. Tuesday after he and Shane called it a day, Josh went to look at the house with Susan and Winston. It, as most of the houses on the Mountain, was a Craftsman design, but with more and larger windows. It was two-story with three bedrooms up and the master bedroom down. When they picked it out, Rob said he would get the blueprint and Josh discovered there were blueprints for every building on the Mountain including the simplest hay shed and the latest, the garage. He noticed the same firm had done the latest and the first, the House. He called the firm and was soon connected to one of the architects who knew the Mountain and the buildings. He had an assistant pull the blueprint in question and said, “My first impression is to convert the garage into an apartment -- small bedroom, living area and studio kitchen and build a free-standing garage, but give me a couple, three days and I'll get back to you.”

When he called back, he had two options. The first was to extend the back of the garage by eight feet, which could be done without blocking a window, and adding a free standing garage in the same style as the house. The second was to make the free standing 'garage' an apartment with a living area and kitchen down and two bedrooms and a bath up. Alma immediately vetoed that idea because it involved stairs and she expected to be in it for a long time and the time would come when she didn't need stairs. Susan vetoed it because it would be unattached to the house. Both she and Alma liked the idea of Alma having her own space, but neither liked the idea of her place being unattached since both knew Alma would often share meals with them and babysit the twins. Josh gave the architect the go-ahead and he said he'd have the plans in a week or so. Rob said it would probably take a couple months to build the apartment.

“Look,” Susan said, “we will have three bedrooms up and will only be using one for the next few months ....”

“Whoa!” Winston exclaimed. “What do you mean 'will only be using one for the next few months?'”

Susan got a smug look on her face and said, “Well, I assumed the twins will insist on sharing the same room.”

“Well?” Winston said. “That's one room.”

“Then we'll need a room for the babies.”

“Room for the babies?” Winston gave Susan a look which said, “Ok, I know what's going on, out with it!”

“Yes, babies. I'm pregnant and will probably have twins, maybe triplets, but most likely twins, well, I guess I can't be sure about that. I'm eight to nine weeks along and won't have an ultrasound until week thirteen or fourteen, but I did see an Ob/Gyn last week and she's pretty sure I'm pregnant with twins again.”

Winston was beaming. “Girls this time.”

“I think you've already determined that.”

“Don't blame that on me!”

“I'm afraid she's got you there,” Alma said. “The male determines a baby's sex.”

“Well damn, we have no say in that either.”

“Glad you know who's boss, baby,” Susan said, and gave him a deep kiss. “Anyway, it's six or seven months before we need another room and, Alma, if you won't mind being upstairs, you could move into what will be the guest room and we can get out of Josh's hair.”

“I'm not too sure Josh wants you out of his hair,” Josh said.

“You will. Even I'd like to have those twin tornadoes out of my hair at times.”

“I guess that means we schedule a 'Get the House Ready Day,'” Josh said. He called Rob and they decided to do it Friday and Saturday, since the house was much larger than Cam's and Walt's.

Susan called Cam and asked if he could help her out with a decorating scheme and he was delighted. Winston made it very clear whatever Susan chose would be fine with him so long as the bed was big enough. Alma said the same thing about the room in which she would be staying since she'd have her own place before long.

While Shane and Josh worked on the Boys' Camp proposal, Alex and Nelson worked with the horses; Susan and Cam on the decorating scheme after school and Winston and Rob on getting the cars, trucks and tractors in top notch shape. Winston arrived at the garage an hour before Rob and stayed an hour afterward getting the garage organized to suit himself.

Cam showed up at the corral when he and Susan took a break and it turned out the blond sorrel liked him. So long as he was around the corral, she acted as though she was thoroughly broken to ride, but when he was not, she could put on quite a show. “Gee, I hope all these horses don't turn out to be 'one person' horses,” Alex said.

“I don't think they will,” Nelson said. “I bet so long as you're were not around, someone else could ride Princess. I wonder what the sorrel would do with Cam in the saddle?”

“I'm sure he's game, but he could be hurt easily.”

“He's seen us on the ground enough to know that,” Nelson said.

“But he doesn't know how to fall.”

“Guess he can learn the same way we did, by being thrown.”

“I know he wants to try,” Alex said. When Josh showed up at the corral, Alex asked him if he thought they should let Cam try to ride.”

“Clear it with Walt,” he said, “before you ask Cam.”

Alex called Walt and asked him about putting Cam on the horse and told him why they would even consider it. “He'll likely break his neck, but he's been bugging me about when he could ride. Let him go ahead. Right now he is with Susan. They have been together since he got home from school. I guess she's chosen him to be her interior decorator.” Walt laughed, “I wonder what his macho friends in Oakland would say about that?”

“I suspect we both know,” Alex said, “fortunately, he's where his talent is appreciated.”

“Yeah, the change in the boy for the better is remarkable. I'll tell him when he gets home or you can call him. I may come down to watch this.”

“Do. He will appreciate it.”

Alex called the House and Janie said Susan and Cam were at the Masons' place. He called and told Susan what was up and asked if she and Cam had finished. “No, but we'll be there shortly.” Fifteen minutes later Susan, Cam and the twins arrived.

“Cam, that sorrel seems to like you. When you are here, she behaves and when you're not, she's as difficult as the stallion. If you're up to it, and knowing you might break your neck -- and that's no joke -- Alex and I think she might let you ride. Your decision.”

“Now that I watch you two, I'm not as anxious to climb in a saddle as before, but with help, I'll try it.”

“Not if you're frightened. Nervous is ok, frightened is not. Horses sense that at once.”

“Ok, where do I start?”

“Start by seeing if she'll let you catch her. If she won't, then I'd say, forget it for a while. Go to the tack room and get some oats, blanket and saddle.”

When Cam brought the saddle, Nelson tossed it over a barrel and had Cam climb on it and adjusted the stirrups. He also showed Cam how to sit. “Ok, you have seen us catch the horses who allow it, see if you can catch her."

Cam walked toward the sorrel who came to meet him. When she reached him, he held out a handful of oats and she lipped them from his hand. He started stroking her neck and scratching between her ears. The horse leaned into him and Cam led her to the fence. When he put the blanket on her, she didn't move. The same with the saddle. Nelson and Alex said nothing, but both were holding their breath, waiting for the horse to explode. When Cam had the saddle cinched, Nelson checked it and was surprised the cinch was nice and tight. Most horses puffed up their bellies so the cinch was loose if the rider didn't check and make sure it was tight. Cam grabbed the saddle horn and attempted to mount like Alex and Nelson and ended up with one leg on the saddle and the other firmly planted on the ground. Nelson linked his hands and held them for Cam to use as a step and he hoisted himself in the saddle. When he clicked his tongue, the horse looked back over her shoulder at him as if to say, “You're sure about this?” then started a very sedate walk around the corral.

Alex and Nelson debated whether or not to open the gate and allow horse and rider into the pasture and decided it was ok. Once in the pasture, the sorrel picked up her pace a bit and clearly she and Cam were thrilled. “Well, I'll don't think I've seen anything like it,” Nelson said. “Ok, anyone else want to try? We've got five more horses we've worked with, but I think that's the only magic one we have.”

Josh said, “I want to see how that buckskin stallion will behave with me,” and walked toward the horses. He was very close to the stallion when it started backing away, then turned and ran. It was pretty clear he was not going to come willingly so Josh whirled Nelson's lariat and dropped it over the horse's neck. He kept it tight as he walked toward the horse and took it by its halter and walked to the fence where Alex and Nelson had placed three saddles. He tied the stallion to a post and dropped a blanket on his back, then the saddle. The horse used every trick in the horse book on how to avoid being saddled, but he was not up against an amateur and Josh soon had the saddle cinched and mounted in as graceful a motion as Alex and Nelson had done. Meanwhile, the two of them had caught a paint and a bay and brought them to the fence to be saddled. When all three were mounted and headed out into the pasture, Alex said, “I guess we forgot about Cam. I hope he's not lying in the pasture with something broken."

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