The day for Sandy's funeral was a bright summer day with a warm breeze, which helped alleviate some of the gloominess that such a day usually engendered in the attendees. The decision had been made to have a graveside service, rather than an elaborate church service. Gathered around the gravesite in Rose Hills were friends, family and co workers. Sean led the service by singing a traditional song to the Great Spirit. Then he invited any who would like to say something to come up and stand at the graveside when they spoke. Keith Jenkins, the lawyer that Sandy had worked for, stepped up first.
"I will miss having Sandy working for me, because she knew her job and did it well, but not only that, I will miss her friendly attitude and how she always was talking about how proud she was of her son Trevor. She cared a lot about you, Trevor, and kept us up to date about what you were doing. I knew that we could always count on her to do what we needed, except where her son was involved. Her boys came first always, and yes, I mean boys, she cared just as much for you, Jeremy, once you became part of the family, so we always knew how you were doing as well. We will miss her."
He walked over to her family and shook Jake, Trevor and Jeremy's hands before he re-joined his wife. Tom and Terry came up together holding hands. Terry began to speak.
"There is so much to say about Sandy, that I don't know what to say. When I first met her almost a year ago, I saw a beautiful, loving woman who had raised a wonderful son. Once she and Jake realized that they were meant for each other and started going out. I was jumping for joy as I had thought that Jake needed someone in his life like her and I was right. For years I had tried to get Jake together with someone special, and in the end I didn't have to do anything at all, they did it themselves. She gained a great husband and he gained a perfect wife and son. When the time came they added Jeremy to the family, because her generous spirit could not think of him being anywhere else but with family. She became a favored Aunt to my boys and treated them with the same care and concern as she did her boys. Our family has lost a member that will never be replaced, but she will never be forgotten by any that truly knew her."
They walked over to Jake and his boys and gave each of them a hug. Zach and Jared followed them; after giving hugs to their boyfriends, the twins stayed with them instead of standing with their parents. They stood with their arms draped across their partners' shoulders. Jeremy's grandparents took their turn as well.
"Evie and I are only sorry that we never got to know Sandy better. Parents shouldn't outlive their children and we feel like we have lost another daughter. After we lost our daughter Denise, we didn't know what we were going to do with Jeremy, our grandson. We vowed that we would do everything we could to take care of him. We met with Jake and Sandy, and we quickly saw that the best thing we could do was to allow him to become part of Sandy and Jake's family. We could see the love she had for Jeremy was just as strong as it would have been, were Jeremy born to her as her son. Once we made the decision, we knew it was the right one. We didn't lose a grandson; our family grew by three more people. They helped us get over the loss of our daughter Denise by letting us be a part of their family, and we are blessed to have done so."
Trevor took his turn. His eyes were full as he looked at the people and then down at the coffin in front of him.
"Thank you everyone for coming to honor my mom. She was a great mom and I know that she is happy where she is now. I wish she could still be here, because my brother, my dad and I miss her a lot. She was a great mom. She was tough when she needed to be and supported me when I needed it, no matter what. When we first moved here from the valley, I didn't know how it would be. All the friends that I knew were behind us, and I would have to meet new ones and start over. Soon I met Jeremy and we became close friends. Then one day I saw our neighbor working across the street in his garage and I wandered over to say hi. I'd seen him a couple of times and he looked kinda cool, tall and strong with his long hair like an Indian, so I wanted to meet him. I helped him and we talked for a little while, and he taught me some stuff. Once I talked to him I found that he was a great guy. I continued to visit with him, and he always took the time for me and answered anything I asked. I began to love him like a dad, because he seemed to act like a dad would toward me. I had introduced him to my mom and as they got closer, I was so happy I could burst. When they finally decided to get married, that was one of the best days of my life. I called him Dad before they were married, but now he became my dad for real, and I couldn't ask for any better gift from my mom as that. Through Jake I met my Uncle Tom and Aunt Terry and two of my best friends, Jared and Zach. I also got a brother in Jeremy. I wish things could have been different and my mom was here to watch me grow up, but I know that she watches over us and will always be here. Thank you all for coming. Thank you, Grandfather.
Trevor turned to Sean and hugged him, and then he walked over to Jake, who held him tight as he cried. Jake held and rocked him; he did everything he could to give him comfort. Trevor pulled back and walked over to stand next to Zach, who put his arm around his shoulders as Trevor leaned into him. He put his head on Zach's shoulder. Jake stepped up.
"Thank you, everyone. There is not much more to say about Sandy; everyone else has said what was needed. Besides marrying me, she gave me the greatest gift she could, her son Trevor. She allowed me to step up into the role of a father to Trevor and that role has become my greatest joy. He is a wonderful boy and I knew that was only possible because he had a great mom. The job she did with him was second to none, and now it is my turn to continue to do everything in my power to help him become the great man that he will become someday. I know that wherever she is, she will keep an eye on us and help me when I need it. I'll only need to think of her and the answer will come to me. Thank you for being here to honor her and our family."
Jake stepped to the side of his father as Sean lit a small bundle of sage, and using his eagle feather fan, he pushed the smoke to Jake, who cupped his hands and pulled the smoke toward him and over his head, like he was washing his hair with the smoke. Sean then moved around to each person who stood near. He waved the smoke towards each person, giving them a blessing as he did it. When he got to Tom, Terry and the four boys, they made the same motions with their hands as Jake did, pulling the smoke up and over their heads. After he had blessed everyone there, he moved to the grave and walked around it, waving the smoke over the coffin as he circled it, constantly chanting a blessing. Once he finished he stood beside Jake once again and placed the sage in a bowl that Jake held for him. He once again raised his voice to the Great Spirit. Once he finished, he unwrapped a quilled leather sash from around his waist and laid it over the coffin. He turned to everyone assembled.
"Thank you, my friends. You do the daughter of my heart a great honor by being here today. Our family appreciates that more than you can know. Go in peace under the Great Spirit, who watches over all of us."
The crowd dispersed as Jake walked over to Trevor and Jeremy. They put their arms around his waist as they walked to the limo that would take them back home. Zach and Jared walked beside their boyfriends. The rest of the family followed behind them.
The family gathered at Jake's house afterwards, and the ladies immediately got together in the kitchen, keeping all of the men out as they started cooking. The boys went upstairs to play video games, and the men sat in the living room and discussed the upcoming trip to Montana.
"Tom, as you know the plan is to be gone for a couple of weeks. After everything that has been going on for the last few months, it will be nice to get away for awhile and relax."
"Yeah, buddy, I agree. I look forward to sitting on the bank of some of those streams that you've shown me and do some quiet fishing."
"Yeah, me too. Anyway, we were talking and I want to stay a little longer, a few more weeks anyway, maybe even most of the summer, and if you don't mind, I'd like Zach and Jared to stay with us as well. I know the boys would have a good time, and Trevor and Jeremy would really be happy if you and Terry were okay with it."
Tom sat back quietly thinking, looking at Sean and Jake. He studied them for a couple of minutes.
"I would have to talk to Terry and she would have to agree, but I think it should be okay. I know that the boys will love it. However, there is something else, I don't know what it is, but there seems to be something else going on too. Something that you're not saying, but something. Anyone care to fill me in?"
Jake and Sean exchanged glances before he turned back to Tom.
"Tom, I've got to ask you to trust us. There is something else, but it isn't the time or place to talk about it, yet. I swear we will, but it really is important for the boys to go and to stay longer. It will really help Trevor and Jeremy if they are there."
"Now you've got me a little worried."
"Tom, trust me. I won't let anything happen to them. I love them just like my own boys, you know that."
Tom studied them quietly, before he nodded.
"I know how you feel about them. Okay, I'll go along with it, but don't make me wait long before you tell me."
"I swear you'll know as soon as I can. There are some things we have to do, and you will know everything you need to know."
"Okay, I trust you guys. Don't worry about the company. I'll handle everything. You do what you have to do, just keep them safe."
"They'll be safe, buddy. And Tom, don't say anything to Terry about how you feel on this. Please act like you suspect nothing else other than it being a vacation. It is, but there is something else as well."
Tom nodded and they relaxed. Soon the ladies were calling them to dinner. They were soon joined by the boys. After dinner Tom and his family left to go home and so that they could make sure that everything was packed for the trip.
The next day was spent with final preparations for the trip to the ranch. Jake and his family got their SUV's loaded up with everything they might need. Jake took his parents to the airport as they planned to fly back home, pick up their car at the airport, and get everything ready for the others. The family planned to travel in two SUVs and make it a road trip, making stops along the way to see the sights. They figured it would take them about a week to get there.
On Tuesday everyone was up early and got the last bags loaded in the Jeep and the Suburban. Jake pulled into Tom's driveway and he and the boys went inside to let them know that they were there. For the first part of the trip, Trevor and Zach rode with Jake in his Jeep, while Jeremy and Jared rode in the Suburban. They were leaving early so as to cross the Mojave Desert early in the morning rather than later, because in July it could hit 115 to 125 degrees during the middle of the day. After a few hours they drove by Baker, CA, where they saw the world's tallest thermometer, showing that it was in the mid nineties even though it was not even mid morning yet. The boys had fallen asleep as kids usually did especially when they had to get up early and the trip was a long one. They pulled into Las Vegas in the late morning to fill up at a truck stop just outside the city. When they exited the trucks, the heat hit them like a blast furnace. Terry and the boys went inside to get some drinks and snacks and relieve themselves, while Jake and Tom filled up the trucks. In the near distance they could see the Las Vegas Strip. Once they were filled up, they once again started their trek. Jake led the way and they continued on the I-15 heading north. Near St. George, Utah, Jake led them off of the interstate to a small ghost town named Silver Reef. When they stopped, they all got out and he led them around, telling them about it having been a silver mining town during the 19th century. He pointed out the old Wells Fargo office, and then had them follow him to a kind of pit nearby and told them that it was the location of a garbage pit, and sometimes if you dug in it, you could find old things. That was all the boys needed to hear and they jumped into the pit and started digging around with their hands, while the adults wandered around and looked in some of the few old buildings that were left. Soon there was a yell from the pit and Jeremy came running up out of the pit holding something in his hand.
"Hey, Dad, look what I found."
He held out a small cup-like item made of some kind of pottery. Jake examined it and smiled.
"Jeremy, I think they used to call these an assayer's cup. One of the reasons for the Wells Fargo office is here is that there used to be silver mining in the area. The assayer, he is the one who does a test to see how pure a mineral is. In this case he would test the silver that was brought in to see how pure it is, and from that test he could tell the miner how much it was worth. That's pretty cool, bud."
Jeremy ran back to tell the others what it was. The boys continued digging for almost an hour before the adults walked back over to tell them it was time to get back on the road. The boys climbed out of the pit, covered in dirt and all of them carrying something that they had found. There were more assay cups, some broken and others whole. There were some old buttons and even a couple of small bottles that Jake told them looked to be medicine bottles. The boys dusted each other off before they got back in the trucks and they were once again on the road, but this time only for a little while, because they were spending the night in motel in Beaver, Utah.
The next morning they were on the road once again. For the next couple of hours they drove north. As they neared Salt Lake City, they saw the immense size of the Great Salt Lake stretching out before them to the North and West of the city. They left I-15 behind them and followed I-80 towards Wyoming. As they climbed up into the Rocky Mountains, Jake and Tom pointed out to the boys that they were in the area of the ski slopes of Park City, Deer Valley and other well known Utah ski resorts. This immediately got the boys thinking about plans to go skiing there next winter when they were out of school. The trip continued and by the late morning they crossed the Wyoming border, and as they entered the state, the boys started talking and pointing excitedly because right there was this huge stand that said 'FIREWORKS'. Jake pulled off the interstate just outside of Evanston, Wyoming and into the parking lot for the fireworks stand. The boys piled out and pressed their faces to the screens of the fireworks stand, practically drooling over all the fireworks displayed: firecrackers, cherry bombs, missile batteries, roman candles, M-80's, sky rockets, every kind of fun firework that every boy wished that he had to play with. After drooling for several minutes, they began to badger the adults to buy some. Although Terry was not overly fond of the idea, the guys gave in and convinced her, and soon they allowed the boys to buy a few different types to take with them to the ranch. They grabbed lunch nearby and once they were done, they jumped back in the trucks and continued. They soon left I-80 and took a state highway north. As they headed north, this time the boys were more interested in what they saw as they made their way between the Wyoming and Wind River Ranges. The boys were all riding with Jake at this time and he told them about the Native American nations who lived in this area, and pointed out the sights. By the late afternoon they passed a sign that said Yellowstone National Park. After they paid the entrance fee, Jake drove from the south entrance for about forty miles until they saw a large multistory wooden building. He pulled up into the parking lot in front of the building, and just as they came to the entrance, they saw a large crowd of people standing around looking in one direction at a large bare patch of ground that had what looked like a mound of dirt in the middle of it. There was what looked like smoke coming out of it.
"Dad, what are all those people looking at?"
"Just wait a few minutes."
They stood and watched, and just as the boys started to fidget there was a loud roar and hot steaming water shot over a hundred feet up into the air.
"That is Old Faithful Geyser. It erupts about every ninety minutes. It looks like we got here just in time."
That stood in awe of the power demonstrated as the geyser continued to shoot the boiling water into the air for a few minutes before it finally subsided. The boys had huge grins on their faces.
"That was awesome."
"I thought you'd like it. Come on, let's get ourselves checked in so we can get cleaned up and go get some dinner. I feel like some buffalo."
"You can eat buffalo here?"
"Yep, although the correct name is bison, and it is good."
They went back to the car and grabbed overnight bags and carried them inside. After checking in, a bellhop took their luggage to one of the upper floors and let them in. From the windows there were some great views; here and there could be seen steaming geysers, including Old Faithful. Jake had one room, Tom and Terry had one for themselves, and the boys were all together in one room that had two queen size beds. Everyone quickly got cleaned up and headed back downstairs. They went into a large dining room, and when they looked at the menu, there were things like bison, wild boar, venison and other game meats. Everyone decided to have the bison steak. The meal was excellent and they all liked the different taste of bison.
"Okay guys, here is the plan. We are going to stay here tonight and tomorrow. Tomorrow we're going to take a drive around the park and see as much of the geysers and hot springs that we can. The day after that, we are going to head east and go to Cody, Wyoming. There is some very cool stuff to see there. I think you'll like it."
"You guys have some free time to wander around. There are a lot of geysers and hot springs that you can see here in the basin. So why don't you guys go explore for a bit? Try not to stay up too late; we have a busy day tomorrow and I want you guys to get plenty of rest."
He got nods of agreement from everyone as Jake charged the meal to the room and they left. The boys said goodbye and headed out into the basin and started wandering the wooden boardwalks that covered the grounds. The boardwalks kept people from walking on some of the fragile vegetation and allowed everyone to enjoy the scenery. The boys saw the well-known beauty of the Morning Glory pool. They got a chance to see some eruptions of some of the other geysers around the basin, some shooting pretty high and others not so much. They saw Castle Geyser and Grotto Geyser; at the Grotto Geyser they got a face full of steam as they got to it right in the middle of one of its hour-long eruptions. After they saw all the geysers, pools and spotted a small elk herd, and scampering chipmunks were everywhere, the boys made their way back to their room. They stopped to let the adults know that they were back. Once they got back upstairs, the boys lay in bed and watched a movie for awhile before the yawns started to become more pronounced. They decided that it was time for bed; they brushed their teeth and then they quickly stripped down to their underwear and climbed into bed with barely enough energy to cuddle up with each other and gave each other a kiss goodnight, before they slipped off to sleep.
The next morning after a big breakfast, they headed to the north end of the park. They stopped along the way at various geyser basins: Upper Geyser, Lower Geyser, and Norris basins. They got to Mammoth Hot Springs and after they looked around at the sights that were there, they had lunch at one of the restaurants located there. After lunch they toured through Fort Yellowstone, which was established in the mid 1880's to protect the park. After lunch they made their way from Mammoth Hot Springs to Canyon, where they saw the upper and lower Yellowstone Falls. From there they made their way back through Norris to Old Faithful basin. After dinner the boys wanted to go exploring again, and since the sun stayed up a bit longer because they were farther north, they didn't get back to the room until after nine pm. Once there the boys said goodnight to their parents and headed to their room.
The next day after another good breakfast, they checked out and headed east. They stopped at the West Thumb Basin and followed along the shore of Yellowstone Lake, skirting the northwest and north shores of the lake before turning east towards Cody, Wyoming. As they drove toward the east entrance, they saw herds of buffalo, and elk. At one point they saw a large number of cars pulled over to the side, and they decided to stop and investigate. When they got to where they could see what was going on, they spotted a black bear and her cubs wandering along the top of a small hill, as the bears made their way into the trees. Once the bears were out of sight, they got back into the trucks and got going.
They left the east entrance behind and traveled through northwestern Wyoming. They saw some great scenery as they made their way to Cody. When they got to town, they checked in to the Irma Hotel, the hotel that Buffalo Bill established in 1902. Once they had the bags in their rooms, they got some lunch and then headed out to Old Trail Town and looked at all the old buildings and cabins that were found there. Most of the buildings had historical displays. At the end of the town they saw some graves of famous frontiersmen, like Jeremiah Johnson. That evening they went to the Cody Night Rodeo.
The next day they checked out of the hotel and went to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center and spent all morning touring through the place. By the early afternoon it was time to get back on the road. They made their way through Greybull and over the Big Horn Mountains. From a lookout at almost 10,000 feet, they could look out across the Wyoming prairie for miles. They pulled into Sheridan, Wyoming late in the day and checked into the Mill Inn. The next morning it was time to head north into Montana. They reached Hardin, Montana after a couple of hours of driving. Jake led them out of town on Highway 47, and as they got away from town, they started to see ranchland on either side of the highway. Jake took an exit off the highway to the east and pulled into a ranch gate with the brand on it of the "Rocking MC" and the name MacLaren.
They drove to the ranch house that was located one mile from the entrance. When they pulled up to the ranch house, the boys jumped out and looked around the place. Jake got out and started pointing things out to everyone. The house was a large two-storey log cabin looking house. The barn was large as well. They saw several men around the yard and most of them appeared to be Indians. There was another long low building that Jake told them was a bunkhouse for the ranch hands that lived on the ranch. Another building was a workshop. They started to attract the attention of the some of the hands, when suddenly there was a loud whoop that caused everyone to jump and a horse came charging into the yard, and even before it stopped, a young man jumped off the horse and launched himself into Jake's arms.
"SEOTSE HO'NEHE, MY BROTHER!"
Jake got a huge grin as he grabbed the young man and they danced around, hugging each other and talking in Cheyenne excitedly. The rest of the family had been joined by Sean and Shayna as they watched the reunion. They finally settled down and turned to the group.
"Sorry about that, guys, we haven't seen each other in a long time. Tom, you might remember him, though he was a bit younger then. This is Eheestaha Mo'ehen'ha, Brave Horse or Robbie Brave Horse."
"Sure, Robbie, it's been years, but I remember you now. It's nice to see you all grown up. The last time you were what, thirteen or fourteen?"
Tom and he shook hands.
"Twelve. You guys had just gotten back from the Gulf War and my brother was healing up from his wounds."
"Yeah, that's it. I remember now. How have you been?"
"That's great; it really is good to see you."
"Robbie, let me introduce you to the rest. This is Terry, Tom's wife. These are my godsons Zach and Jared, Tom and Terry's sons. An lil' bro, these are the best people in my life. My sons, Trevor and Jeremy."
"So these are the boys I've been hearing about."
Robbie walked over to the two boys; he put a hand on each of their shoulders and looked at them closely with a smile on his face. He reached up and smoothed the hair back from their faces, gazing into their eyes, and then he let his hand move down the side of their head to rest on their shoulders again.
"Welcome, Nephews. My heart is glad to meet you. I have waited long to do so, and now my heart soars that that wait has ended."
Robbie bent down and quickly lifted them both up, hugging them in his strong arms before he set them down and turned to Jake.
"Hey, big brother, you stayin' around for awhile?"
"Yep, we'll be here for some time."
"Great, then I can teach my nephews... " He glanced at Jared and Zach. "... all of 'em, that is, some things they should know."
"Yeah, we'll see what those things are."
"Okay, everyone, let's go inside and get your bags put away."
"Robbie, don't you have something to do?"
"Uh, yeah, sure, I mean yes, sir. See you later, bro."
"And Robbie, after you finish and wash up, you're invited to dinner tonight."
"Yes, sir. Thank you."
Robbie went to his horse, mounted up and before he rode off, he made his horse rear. He waved to them and got an answering wave from Jake. After hugs were received all around, they grabbed their bags and went inside the house. Shayna then got everyone settled into the bedrooms that they would be using. Jake was back in his old room. The boys were all in one large guest room with double beds, and Tom and Terry were in another guest room. They unpacked and got their clothes and other stuff put away before they went back downstairs where everyone was gathered. They all talked about the trip for a couple of hours until it was dinner time. Terry went to the kitchen to help Shayna and just before dinner was served, Robbie knocked at the door and came in to join them. The dinner conversation was lively; they again recounted the trip and talked about the ranch. After dinner, the boys, Jake, Robbie and Sean went to the den to sit and talk. Tom helped the ladies with the dishes. When they got to the den, Jake saw the puzzled expression on Trevor's face.
"What is it, bud?"
"I was just wondering... why didn't you tell us about your brother?"
Jake got the same puzzled expression before realizing what he was asking him. He gave a short laugh.
"Sorry, Robbie isn't my brother, at least not in the way you're thinking. He and I are blood brothers; I've known him all his life. His father is a longtime friend of my father's, and I used to watch Robbie when he was younger. He used to come out and stay at the ranch a lot, especially during the summer. He works for my dad here at the ranch from time to time. He is a teacher... in Hardin, right?"
"Yep, I teach history at Hardin Middle School. During the summer I come out here and work for Sean. I like to be out here away from the town, where I get to ride a horse every day. Best way to spend a summer."
"How did you become blood brothers?"
Jake had finally recovered from the wounds he had received during the operation in the Middle East, and it was time to report back in a few days. He was riding in the hills near the ranch, and pulled a pack horse behind him. Beside him rode twelve-year-old Robbie Brave Horse. Robbie had asked Jake if the two of them could go camping for a couple of days before he had to report back to San Diego. They climbed up into the hills until Jake found just the place he was looking for, right beside the Big Horn River in a grove of trees. When they got there, the two of them made camp. They got the tent set up and they cleared out an area for a fire ring.
After everything was set up, they went down to the river and sat and talked for awhile. Robbie sat right next to Jake, and leaned against him; Jake put his arm around the boy's shoulders. They got back to the camp and cooked up a couple of steaks and beans for dinner. After everything was cleaned up, they sat around the fire drinking hot chocolate. They sat and stared into the fire when Jake realized that Robbie has gotten real quiet. Jake looked over at him and saw tears glistening in the fire light. He reached over and put his hand on Robbie's shoulder, getting his attention. Robbie looked at Jake, and the tears started to fall as Jake gathered him into his arms and rocked him to comfort him. Once Robbie had calmed down, Jake put his hand under Robbie's chin and got him to look up at him.
"What's wrong, little brother?"
"I was so scared, Jake, when they said that you had been shot over there in the war."
"But you can see I'm okay now."
"Yeah, but you're still in the SEALS and you might get hurt again. I couldn't stand it if you were killed. You're my big brother, I need you. Can't you quit?"
"Oh, little brother, I can't quit. I gave my word. Until my enlistment is up, I have to go back."
"How much longer?"
"Not really too much longer, a few months, and then I'll be out. I've decided not to stay in."
"Then you'll be coming back here?"
"I'm not sure yet, bro. I've been thinking about joining a police force."
"You could do that here."
"Maybe, but I might be able to do some good back in Southern California. They need good cops there, and I think I could be good at it.'
"But why can't you do that here? I want you to come back here."
"I'll be back to visit whenever I can. What kind of big brother would I be if I didn't come and visit you as much as I can?"
"But can't you at least think about doing that here? They need police here too. Maybe you could work in Billings. You could at least check."
"Okay, little brother, because you ask, I will check. Fair enough?"
Robbie continued sitting in his lap for awhile as they looked into the fire. Jake heard him mumble something.
"What didja say?"
"You said something, now out with it."
"You'll think it's stupid."
"I would not. Maybe lame-brained, but not stupid."
"Hey, what kind of brother calls his little brother names?"
"Oh, you know, the usual kind, it's our job. We're supposed to do that. Now what did you say?"
"I... wished... you were my real brother."
Jake was silent as he hugged Robbie tightly. When he released him, Robbie looked up and saw the tears in Jake's eyes as he looked down at him.
"I wish I were too, my little Brave Horse. I have watched you grow since you were born, and I have always loved you. You are and always will be my little brother."
He hugged him again and when he loosened his grip, Robbie saw a thoughtful expression on Jake's face.
"Maybe there is a way that we can be brothers, at least as close as possible. I ask you, Brave Horse, will you be my blood brother?"
Robbie was startled for a moment before he smiled and nodded.
"Spirit Wolf, I would be greatly honored to be your blood brother."
Jake motioned for Robbie to stand up. He took his knife out and squatted by the fire. He held the knife in the fire. Robbie watched him with big eyes. Jake smiled at him.
"Don't worry, little brother, I'm just sterilizing the knife."
Robbie continued to watch Jake. When Jake was satisfied, he put the blade in the hot water over the fire and kept it in there until it stopped hissing. He took it out and tested the blade to make sure it wasn't hot enough to burn their skin. He stepped back from the fire and sat down and crossed his legs. He motioned for Robbie to sit across from him. When Robbie was settled, he motioned for him to give him his hand. Jake turned Robbie's hand palm up and put the knife edge to his palm. He looked at Robbie.
"Are you ready, my brother?"
Robbie swallowed nervously and, not trusting his voice, nodded. Jake gave him an answering nod, before he drew the blade across Robbie's palm, which caused him to wince and suck in a breath. The knife left a trail of blood from the cut. Jake then took the knife and quickly cut across his own hand. He put the knife down and reached across to Robbie, taking his cut hand, and he clasped their bleeding hands together. He looked at Robbie as their eyes met above their clasped hands.
"From this day forth and forever, our mingled blood will let all know that we are brothers of the blood. Because we chose to be brothers, by the blood that we have shed together, our bond is unbreakable. When you need me, you have but to ask, and I will be there, as you will do if I need you. None can break this bond, because it is forged by the Great Spirit and the love we have for each other, as all brothers everywhere should. Come, brother, will you not give me a hug of brotherhood?"
Jake and Robbie stood together; their hands were still clasped together. They wrapped an arm around each other as they hugged, keeping their hands joined together between them. They held it for several minutes. When they broke apart, both of them had unshed tears.
"Thanks, Jake, for being my brother."
They let go and Jake got some gauze and bandages from his first aid kit to cover the wounds. That night Robbie asked if they could share the blankets, as he wanted to feel his new big brother holding him throughout the night. Their sleep was peaceful.
End Jake's Story
"... and that's how we became brothers."
"Yeah, and he's the best big brother I could ever wish for. I have never stopped wishing for him to move back here, but now, I am glad he didn't, because I would not have my nephews."
"Wow, that's pretty cool. So you are kinda like my uncle."
"Yep, I am. I'm glad I have some nephews. I was startin' to wonder if that would ever happen. Glad it finally did though. I think we're going to have some great times here while you're visiting."
"Yeah, me too."
Trevor got up and went to Robbie to give him a hug, followed by Jeremy. They returned to their seats. They continued talking for another couple of hours. Jake told Robbie about everything that had been happening. The boys started yawning and Jake suggested that they get to bed. They said their goodnights and headed off to bed. The ladies brought more coffee, and they stayed and talked another hour or so, mostly telling Robbie about all the events with Sandy, and Jeremy's mom and the search for James Harvey or Roger Smith. They had tried to keep away from that subject with the boys there earlier. Finally it got late and Robbie said that he had to get going, so he could be back early for work.
"I'll walk you out, little brother."
"I will come too."
Jake and Sean walked Robbie out to his Jeep.
"Brave Horse, I would like you and your parents to come to dinner this weekend, Saturday okay? There are some things I need to talk to you and your parent's about. I may need both of you for some 'work'."
Robbie glanced from Jake to Sean with a questioning look.
"Don't worry, Brave Horse, all will be explained. But it is important."
"Of course, we'll be there. I will let them know."
"Thank you, good night, son."
Sean went back into the house and left Robbie and Jake outside.
"Jake, it's good to have you back. How long are you staying?"
"We, at least myself and the boys, may stay for a few weeks, maybe most of the rest of summer, before we have to go home, so that they are back in time for school."
"That sounds great. I still wish you'd stay, ya know. I've never stopped wishing that.'
"I know, but you know, Tom and I have our business there, and the boys have their friends and their life there. It wouldn't be fair to uproot them and drag them back here. With everything that is happening, they need some stability for awhile. I can assure you, we'll come out and visit as much as we can, and maybe someday we'll move back, but I can't right now. The business is doing real well and we have to be where our clients are. LA is the place for that."
"Yeah, I understand. Well, I plan to spend as much time as I can with you guys. We should take a ride up to our favorite camping place while you're here."
"That sounds good. Once we get settled in, we'll plan it. I know the boys would love to do that."
"Hey, bro, sorry I couldn't make if for the wedding or... the funeral. I'm so sorry, bro, so sorry."
Robbie put his arms around Jake as they hugged for a few moments before they moved back to lean against the truck.
"That's okay, little bro. When Dad came out for the wedding, he said that you had some training you had to do that you couldn't get out of. Was it for school?"
"Yeah, you could say that."
"Don't worry about it, bro. Dad told me that you were out of the country until just last week. Where'd you go?"
"British Isles. Doing some... uh, research, historical, ya know?"
"Good place for it; you can't walk far without tripping over history over there. How'd you like it?"
"Pretty cool, I learned a lot while I was there. I'll probably go back and visit. I made some friends there that I would like to see again."
"Good for you. So anyone special yet?"
"Reaallly. Tell big brother Jake. I have to make sure she's good enough for you."
"You'll have to wait, bro. If you're staying around for a bit, I might let you meet her. And just so you know, she don't scare easy. She could probably kick your ass."
"Interesting, I can't wait to meet her."
"You will soon enough. She's out of town right now, should be back by the weekend."
"Okay, see ya, bro."
"Yeah, well, good night, big brother."
Robbie wrapped his arms around Jake and they hugged for a few moments. Robbie stepped back and got into his Jeep. Jake watched as he started it up and drove away, waving as he left. Jake watched the Jeep drive out of sight before he headed back inside. When he got inside, he saw that his parents were the only ones left in the living room.
"They got tired and decided to get some sleep."
"I think that sounds great. I think I'll go say goodnight to the boys and get to bed myself."
Jake went to the boys' bedroom and opened the door. He walked in and watched the four boys sleep for a few moments before he bent down and gave each of them a kiss on their foreheads or cheeks, before he quietly left the room. Once in his room, it didn't take him long before he too was asleep.
CLANG! CLANG! CLANG!
"What the fu...."
The four boys practically jumped out of bed in fright to the sight of Jake and Tom standing near the bed with pots and big spoons in their hands, busting up. The boys jumped the two men, causing them to drop their instruments of torture. Jake and Tom quickly threw the boys back onto the beds and started tickling them. They let up when the boys started screaming about peeing the beds and ran out of the room to the bathroom. Jake and Tom laid back on the beds laughing until they were suddenly pounced upon once again, Trevor and Jeremy on Jake, Zach and Jared on Tom. The two men wrapped their arms around the boys and held them tight so they couldn't move. Everyone was soon laughing and giggling. The boys finally let them up.
"That was mean."
"Hey y'all are on a workin' ranch, and we get up early here. So if you want to get some food, you need to get up and get dressed, and git yer butts to the dining room. Breakfast is almost ready. Then we got some things to do today."
The men were answered with four 'Okay Dad''s. The men left the boys to get cleaned up and dressed, and headed to the kitchen. They were soon joined by the boys. The ladies had just put breakfast on the table. The boys quickly found their seats and dug in. Once they were done, they helped clear the table and joined Jake, Tom and Sean as they walked outside.
"So what are we doing today, Dad."
"Well, today we're going to do some riding, as soon as Rob... oh, here he comes."
They saw Robbie and his Jeep as he came driving up to the house and parked near the bunkhouse. He jumped out and waved as he came over.
"Morning, Robbie. I need your help; we need to get some horses saddled for us and the boys. We're going to do some riding this morning. We need to teach these guys how to ride."
"Great, let's get over to the stables and we'll get us a few mounts."
They all followed him to the stables. Jake and Robbie talked about which horses would be good for Tom and the boys to ride, while Sean went into the tack room to get some saddles and other tack out for the horses. Tom helped him. They carried everything out, put the saddles on some saddle stands that were used for that purpose, and laid the blankets and bridles on top of the saddles. Soon Robbie and Jake appeared leading a couple of horses. Sean helped tie them up. Robbie went back and brought a couple more, one for himself and one for Tom. Sean had gotten his horse out and tied it up as well.
"Okay. The first thing we need to do is brush and comb them. Tom, you already know what to do, so why don't you get started while I show the boys."
Jake grabbed a brush and curry comb out of a bucket near the tack room, and with the boys following him, he went to the horse that he was going to ride.
"All right, this is easy to do; just watch me for a little while and then go grab your own brushes and combs, and get to work on your horses. First, though, let me tell you a couple of things about horses. When you are around them, don't run up to them. Some horses don't mind so much, but a lot will be startled if you run toward them. Let them get to know you. Let 'em smell your hand and pet them gently. Always be careful when you come up behind a horse. If he doesn't see you, he won't know what is there and he will probably kick at you. Their back legs are their most powerful weapon, and they are not afraid to use them. So always come from the front or the side. You can walk around their back, but as you do put your hand on his rump as you walk around, and stay close. If you do it that way he knows what is behind him, and if he still kicks at you, since you're so close to him, mostly he will push you away. It will be hard and you'll probably fall down, but he won't have the full strength behind his kick, and you have less chance of being hurt. Everyone got that?"
"Good. Now, the next thing is how to groom a horse. Whenever you are going to ride, you need to make sure that he is brushed down and any mud or dirt that is caked in his hair is brushed out. Any questions?"
The boys all shook their heads.
"Good, now here is how you do it. Brush from the top down, brush with the hair, don't go up against the way the hair lays; that'd be like I came up behind you and brushed your hair from the back to the front. Your hair doesn't lie that way and neither does your horse's. When you find caked-in mud or dirt, you use the curry comb and the brush like this. Comb first and brush after. Soon enough you'll get the rhythm down and it'll be easy. Now when we get back from riding, after you get the saddle, bridle and everything else off, you will brush them down again. Any last questions?
More shaking heads.
"Okay, Robbie is going to introduce you to your horse, and then you go over to that bucket and grab what you need to groom your horse."
The boys walked over to where Robbie was standing by the tack room. He handed out the brushes and combs and motioned for them to follow him. He stopped at the first horse.
"Okay, here they are. Jeremy, that brown one is for you, he's Tenny. Jared, next to him is Bridger, the black one. Zach, you have Stoney here, the paint, and Trevor, you have Buck, the buckskin. You're all set, so get to work, and when you're done, ask me, Jake or Sean, to check them, 'cuz there's one more thing we need to teach you before we saddle up and get out on the range."
The boys got right to work getting the horses ready. Soon they were finished up and went to get one of the adults to check the horses over. They got approving nods before Jake gathered them back together.
"All right, guys, here is the final lesson on horse grooming: checking their hooves, to make sure they're not cracked or split and make sure there are no stones in the bottom, because that can make them go lame pretty quick if you ride on them too long. And a cowboy without a horse ain't much of a cowboy. So here is how you do it: you stand by the horse's leg facing toward his rump, run your hand down along the inside of his leg and when you get to the hoof, you kind of lean against him and give a gentle pull on his leg. Most horses will then lift their leg and you can pick it up; kinda rest if on your knee and look at the bottom like this; keep kind of pushing against his side. Once you have it like this, you take a hoof pick like this and scrap all of this gunk out like this. Once you have it out, see this triangle shaped area, that is the frog, be gentle around it, it's kinda sensitive. See, no rocks or anything. You check each hoof and then we're ready to saddle up. Each of the adults will help you guys out. Sometimes horses like to lean back on you when you lift their hoof up, so we'll be there to help you. Oh, and watch your feet, some horses like to step on your foot. It can hurt a bit when several hundred pounds of horse steps on you."
They paired off, Jake and Trevor, Robbie and Zach, Sean and Jeremy and Tom and Jared. Soon enough the boys were trying it out with help, until they got used to it. Jake had to push Buck back when he suddenly leaned his weight onto Trevor. Soon enough they were done. Each adult had the boy they were working with untie and lead their horse over near where the adults had their horses, and started showing them how to put the bridle and saddle on. The boys watched as each adult got his horse saddled and bridled, and then with help they got their horses ready to go.
"Okay, looks like we're ready; mount up and let's get out there."
Everyone got up on their horse. The adults waited until the boys were safely up, giving boosts where necessary to help the boys up. When everyone was up, Sean led the way out of the ranch yard. They took it easy on the boys, and kept the horses to a walk. They taught them how to use the reins to control the horse. Once they got away from the buildings, they started to show the boys how to trot, and once out in the fields they taught them to canter and gallop. Soon the boys were moving well with the horses as they put some distance under them.
The morning warmed up as they rode across the fields. Sean stopped them from time to time to point out some sights around the ranch, and showed them where some of the herds were located. They saw some of the other hands doing work around the place as they rode by. Sean occasionally stopped and talked to the hands before moving on. The group headed back so as to be on time for lunch. When they got to the stables, the boys dismounted with many a groan, causing a laugh among the others except Tom, who also groaned a bit. All of them were walking a little carefully as they took care of the horses. Sean, Robbie, and Jake felt sorry for the others, and helped Tom and the boys after they took care of their own horses.
"Good job, guys. Well, I have some things to see to, so I will see you later. We can talk some more Saturday when I come for dinner."
"See ya, Robbie."
"Bye, Uncle Robbie."
"Bye, boys. Take care. A good soak will help you with the sore muscles."
Robbie smiled as he rode off. Jake and the boys went inside to wash up for lunch. After lunch the boys went outside to look around at things around the ranch yard, stables, the small milking barn, chicken coop. They watched some of the hands at work around the stables, getting friendly greetings from them, while the adults sat and talked. After dinner, the boys watched some TV before going to their rooms to get ready for bed. They got up and let out groans, which drew laughs from Jake and Sean.
"Not funny, Dad, Grandfather. My butt still hurts."
"Yeah, you guys are mean. Not only my butt, but my legs, my knees, everything from the waist down hurts."
"You heard what Robbie said: maybe you guys soak in the bathtub for awhile instead of taking showers."
"Yeah, we'll try that."
"Here, let my help you, grandson. Come with me."
Sean got up and the boys followed Sean. He motioned for the others to come along as well. He led them to the back part of the house and through a door, and into a large area that was filled with plants.
"Jake, you haven't seen this yet, but your mother wanted a greenhouse, so she could grow herbs, vegetables and other plants year round. So this is it. But come along."
"It looks nice, Dad. I saw the room from the outside, and thought that is what it was."
They continued to follow Sean as he made his way to the back of the area. He opened another door and they followed him in. This room was smaller and in the middle was a huge hot tub, big enough for at least ten people to sit in it.
"Wow, this is cool, Grandfather."
"Yeah, Dad, when did you put this in?"
"Last summer. The privacy screens are closed right now, but you open them like this, and you can look outside at the view, and if you want, the windows open and you can get a breeze coming in here. Your mother and I use it more during the winter, but this might be a good place for the boys and Tom to soak for awhile before taking some quick showers and getting to bed."
"Good idea, Dad. I think I'll join them for a little while. Tom, Terry, you guys going to join us?"
"Yeah, this is just what the doctor ordered. Let's go get changed."
"Enjoy yourselves. Shayna and I are going to bed."
They hurried back to their rooms to get changed, although for some of them it was more like they hobbled back to their rooms and hobbled back to the spa room. When they got back to the hot tub, many sighs of contentment could be heard as they lowered themselves into the water, bringing smiles of relief to several faces. All of them leaned back, relaxed and talked quietly about the riding and what they saw, telling Terry about everything. After about thirty minutes Jake stretched and stood up.
"Well, I don't know about you guys, but I'm going to bed."
"Can we stay for a little while longer, Dad?"
Jake looked at Tom and they both shrugged.
"Sure, boys, but not too much longer. You still need to wash the chlorine off and get to bed. Remember you get up early on a ranch."
"Hopefully not like this morning, that was mean."
"We ain't in the city anymore, boy. We gotta make cowboys outta y'all. We'll go riding again tomorrow, and you boys can help us with some things around the ranch."
"Cool. We promise we won't stay up long."
"Okay, see you in the morning."
The adults gave each of the boys a hug and kiss before leaving. The boys lay back and relaxed some more. Trevor had leaned back and closed his eyes, reveling in the heat as his muscles continued to unknot, when he was hit with wet cloth in the face. He sat up quickly, the cloth dropping off his head and into the water. Across from him was a grinning Zach. Trevor looked down and saw that the cloth was Zach's swimsuit. He glanced down and could see through the water the blurry shape of Zach's naked body. He grinned and stood up. He pulled down his shorts and quickly threw them at Zach, who dodged. As he dodged, Trevor jumped at him and started tickling him. Jared and Jeremy quickly joined in, after taking off their shorts as well. Soon there was a small mass of naked giggling boys, wrestling around in the hot tub.
They finally stopped and the couples cuddled up next to each other. They began to gently kiss each other. Underneath the water, hands were wandering around their bodies, causing some whimpers and moans to come from the joined mouths as they continued to make out. Trevor pulled out of the kiss and looked in his lover's eyes.
"This is great, but this water is starting to make me sleepy."
"Well, there's one part that doesn't seem too sleepy."
"Yeah, you've got one of those too. Let's go take our showers and get to bed. Maybe we can take care of them so that they will get sleepy too."
"Sounds good. You guys ready?"
"Yeah, let's go."
The boys retrieved their shorts and put back them on. They dried off before they wrapped the towels around their waists so they didn't drip through the house. Each couple went to a different bathroom and took their wet shorts off. They took quick showers to rinse off, and it had the added benefit of waking them up again. After they got all dry, they went to their bedroom. They smiled at each other and all of them threw their towels into the hamper and jumped into bed naked. They quickly snuggled up and started where they had left off in the hot tub. Soon the room was filled with the muffled squeals of boys having fun. They quickly fell asleep when they calmed down each couple spooned together.
The next morning the boys started to learn about what the hands did on the ranch, as they helped with some of the chores. When they finished this time, they were not as sore as they had been the day before. They learned some of the chores that were done around the stables: mucking out stalls, hauling hay, feeding the animals, things like that. They were pretty hot and dusty by the middle of the afternoon, so Jake had Tom and the boys saddle up their horses, and he had them follow him for a few miles. They came to a grove of trees and Jake led them into the trees. About two hundred yards in, they came to a secluded place. There was a waterfall at one end that was about 25' high and a small stream left the pond opposite the waterfall. The pond looked to be about the fifty feet wide and about one hundred feet long. There were a couple of big rocks jutting out over the pond near to the waterfall.
"Yeah, pretty nice, isn't it? When I was younger, my friends and I used to go swimming here a lot whenever we got hot and dusty during their visits. We never needed a pool. Of course, in the winter this gets iced over and it was usually pretty thick, so my friends and I would come out and play on it. We even skated. Robbie and I used to spend a lot of time here in the summer. After finishing our chores we would ride out here and swim for a couple of hours or just hang out."
"This is so cool, Dad."
"I thought you might like it. It's really great on a day like today. Let's get the horses tied off."
Jake dismounted and led his horse to the water for a drink. The others followed suit. Once the horses were finished drinking, Jake led them along the shore and then back into the trees a bit. They saw that there was a hitching rail and small corral built in an open area away from the pond about fifty feet from the shore. There was also a water trough and feed bin. Jake tied his horse up.
"Robbie and I built this a long time ago. We used to camp out here sometimes. If you go in the opposite direction, you'll find a little campsite with a fire ring; we built that too. I think it was just before I went into the Navy. He was about ten years old. Robbie must be coming out here still, because everything looks to be in good shape."
"Can we camp out here sometime while we're out here?"
"I don't see why not. There is another place we like to camp at that is along the Big Horn River and has some good trout fishing. We will definitely go there, but I think we can camp out here sometime too. Maybe we'll let you guys camp out here yourselves, since it is near the house, later.
"Okay, we're only going to stay here for a little while, so tie your horses up and loosen their girths, and we'll go swimming."
"But we don't have our suits."
"What, you've never skinny dipped? It's just us guys, so no problem, right?"
The horses were quickly taken care of, and they made their way back to where they first came in.
"Come with me and I'll show you the campsite."
They followed him and they came to a small site, with room for up to about four or five tents. There was a rock-lined fire ring in the middle of the tents. It had a grate over half of it, that could be used for cooking on. There was also a table and benches that were made of mortared rocks and thick wood planks, off to one side. The area was mostly shaded by trees except for over the fire ring.
"It looks like Robbie's made a few improvements to the place. That table wasn't here the last time I was here."
"This looks real nice, Jake. I think I might want to come out here with the boys myself."
"Yeah, it is nice. Wait until you see the other site. It's more primitive, but it's real nice. Let's go get wet."
There was a path from the campsite to the pond's edge. They stripped their clothes off and laid them on the bench before they walked down to the shore. As they neared it, Jake came up behind Trevor and Zach while Tom came up behind Jared and Jeremy. They each quickly grabbed the boys around the waist and started running toward the water, causing the boys to squirm and yell in surprise. Jake continued right into the water and twisted around, falling backwards into the water as he pulled the two boys under with him. Tom did the same with the two boys in his arms. Jake and Tom let them go and jumped up laughing. The boys jumped up spluttering.
"Hey, no fair."
"All's fair in love and war."
When Trevor finished spitting out the water, he turned to the adults and gave his best Bugs Bunny impression.
"Of course you know, this means war. Surround them."
"Bring it on, guys."
The boys slowly moved forward, and spread out.
'Jared tell Jeremy to go low on Tom, Jared go high. Zach, you take low on Jake, I'll go high. Ready when I say.
Jared whispered to Jeremy to relay the instructions from Trevor.
The boys leaped forward, those going low dove underwater and went for the legs, while the other two leaped forward. The men grabbed the boys coming at their chests; however they could not stop the boys underwater as well and soon found their legs were trapped, and with the extra weight in their arms they fell backward. The boys jumped up and raised their arms in triumph.
"Yay! We win! We Win!"
The boys were laughing as the men came back up. They looked at each other and gave an evil smile before they launched their attack. The air was filled with the screams of the boys as they tried to escape, but to no avail. Trevor and Jared were caught and lifted high out of the water and flung out into the pond, screaming and laughing all the way. The other boys saw what was happening and quickly came over to the men to get a turn. For the next ten minutes, the boys got to be thrown, something they had always liked to do at the pool at home. Jake and Tom started to get tired and put up their hands.
"Race ya to the waterfall."
Jake and Tom led the way, with the boys trying to catch up. They couldn't catch up as the men pulled themselves out onto a rock ledge that was near the waterfall. The boys joined them. Trevor and Jeremy sat on either side of Jake, who put his arms around them, and Tom did the same with his two boys.
"Thanks, Dad. This is great."
"I'm glad you like it, Trev. I used to spend a lot of time here when I was growing up. It's a good place to come to relax and think about things. Well, I think we need to get back. Let's go."
Jake released the boys and stood up on the ledge. He dove in and quickly cut through the water back to the campsite path. Everyone followed behind him. They got back to the campsite, and after they wiped as much of the water as they could off their bodies with their shirts, they got dressed again. They went back to the corral, and after tightening the girths, they mounted up and left the area. They rode quickly back to the ranch house. Robbie saw them come into the yard and walked over. He noted their damp hair and clothes and smiled.
"I see you've shown them the swimming hole."
"Yep. They'd been working pretty hard, and I thought they might enjoy it."
"Cool. C'mon, lets get those horses taken care of, and then I've got to get going."
Robbie helped the boys get the horses groomed and the gear put away. He shook hands with the boys and Tom, and gave Jake a hug before he climbed into his jeep and drove away. They went inside and cleaned up, changing into some clean and dry clothes before they came down to dinner. The boys told about the fun they had at the swimming hole. After dinner, the boys went up to their room and played some video games. Later they went and sat in the hot tub again; this time they went down there with just towels around their waists, no shorts. They let their muscles loosen again as they relaxed in the steaming water. They got out and headed back upstairs to rinse off before they went to bed, once again not bothering with putting anything on. They enjoyed some together time before they closed their eyes and went to sleep.
The rest of the week followed the same schedule: Get up early, eat breakfast, help around the ranch, eat lunch, go swimming in the afternoon, eat dinner, video games or TV, hot tub, and bed. Saturday came around and it was a day off for them. Jake got them up early and they headed south passing through Hardin and made their way to the Little Big Horn Battlefield. Jake became their tour guide as they walked through the National Cemetery. He pointed out the graves of the famous people that were buried there. They went to the visitor center and walked through looking at the exhibits. They walked up to Last Stand Hill, and looked out over the land that was dotted with marble markers showing where the soldiers and Indian braves fell. He pointed out the black shield on the marker that marked the spot where Custer had been found. Nearby was the monument built in the late 1800's to commemorate those who died in the battle. From the hill they could see the battle lines delineated by the lines of markers. Jake told them what he knew about how the battle went. Some were stories handed down through his family and others were what he had read and heard from other families.
"The top of the monument is actually where the top of the hill was at the time of the battle. The hill was flattened when they built the monument. Underneath it they buried the remains that were found on the battlefield. There are a lot of stories about what happened, and they have done some archeological digs here that have helped tell the story better. I had ancestors who fought here. Down below you can see the line of markers that was where company E stood and fought. Beyond that is the Little Big Horn River. Over there Company F had moved over to where the cemetery is now, and made a line there. Company C made their line from Company F along the ridgeline to Company I and the horse holders. Company L made its line over there at that flatter spot past Company I's position."
"What are horse holders?"
"Usually when the cavalry fought, they would dismount because it's pretty hard to shoot accurately from a moving horse, so every fourth soldier would take the lead ropes of the horses for three of the soldiers and move to the rear behind the lines while the soldiers fought."
"Oh. So they didn't fight during the battle?"
"Not usually, no, but in this battle they had to. Anyway, no one knows for certain how many warriors were there, but depending on the account you read, there were anywhere from 2000 to 3000 warriors. Custer had a little over 200 men with him here on this part of the battlefield. The Dakota, or Sioux as the wasichus or white men called them, went around the flank of the soldiers, driving Company F and C back from their lines where the cemetery is now, to this hill. My people, the Cheyenne, with more of the Dakota, pushed up through the middle, driving Company E up the ridge and toward this hill. A brave Cheyenne war leader named Lame White Man led the charge and was killed at the top of the ridge. We'll see his marker when we drive to the other parts of the battlefield. We pushed Company I off the ridge to the back side of the line; you can see a group of markers over there. The braves on the ridge then split up; some came this way toward the hill and the others moved towards the soldiers of Company L. Another large group came around behind the ridge from this side and attacked the horse holders, driving the horses off and killing the soldiers. They joined the others already attacking this hill, and when they killed all those that are here, they moved toward Company L's position. Our stories say that Company L was the last group of soldiers to fall on this part of the battlefield. From there the braves headed to where the rest of the 7th Cavalry were already fighting about five miles away. We'll get the trucks and drive toward that end."
They went back to the trucks and drove from the visitor center along the road that led deeper into the national monument. Jake pointed out things as they drove. The markers could be seen on either side of the ridge. He stopped from time to time and pointed out other sites. They dropped down off the ridge into a small valley. Off to their right toward the river, they saw several tipis set up. A lot of people were there. Jake drove down there and parked so they could see what was going on. There was dancing, food and crafts. They watched the dancing and walked around for a little while. Jake apparently knew some of them as he was greeted by a couple of them as he walked up. He introduced his friends and family to them. They stayed for an hour or so, watching the dancing, eating fry bread and honey. Jake took them down to the riverside and told them more about the battle.
"This is area is Medicine Tail Coulee and this is Medicine Tail Ford. The stories say that this is where Custer tried to cross the Little Big Horn to attack the village and was driven back to that ridge up there. Some say that Custer was wounded here and was helped back. They formed up on that ridge and fired a few times before remounting and falling back to where they eventually fell. So what do you think so far?"
"Pretty good, Jake. You make the battle come alive."
"Thanks. It always interested me and I tried to learn as much as I could. Then of course my people have their own stories of what happened, so I have a different perspective than some people might, seeing as how I had ancestors who fought against the soldiers during that time period. Well, shall we continue?"
Jake said goodbye to his friends, and they got back into the trucks and drove farther down the road. They pulled into another small parking lot and Jake took them around the site.
"This area is called the Reno-Benteen Defense site, named after the two officers who were in command here. Major Reno took his battalion of three companies down into the valley to attack the village that was down there. He charged with 125 men. They surprised those in the village and were successful for a time, but the greater numbers that we had drove them back into the trees down there. They stayed there for a time and some say that the sudden death of an Arikara Scout, named Bloody Knife, so unnerved Major Reno that he started giving conflicting orders to mount and dismount and then mount again, and finally the order came: 'Every man for himself'. They mounted up and took off running. The stories of my people say that they just ran, and all the warriors had to do was ride up behind them and club them out of the saddle. It was a complete rout. They rode up to here. Over there you can see some markers that show where men fell as they rode up here. Captain Benteen met Major Reno up here, and with his help they calmed everyone down and got the soldiers organized. This is where the rest of the 7th Cavalry made a stand. For two days the warriors that surrounded them attacked them. There in that shallow depression in the middle, they had a hospital where they took care of the wounded. The battle started on June 25, 1876. By the 26th, they were out of water, and the wounded were suffering. So several men took all the canteens that they could carry and ran down this ravine. They call it Water Carriers Ravine now because of them. At the bottom of the ravine they were still quite a distance from the river, so some of them ran to the river to fill canteens under fire, while the others gave covering fire. Only one of them was wounded and the water they got saved lives. All eleven of them were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions. Eventually on the 27th, soldiers from Colonel Gibbon's command made their way here and the siege was over. That was when they found out about what had happened to Custer, five miles away."
"That is some story, Jake."
"Yeah, Uncle Jake, that was good."
"Thank you. I wanted to bring you here and show you this. The whites called it a massacre, but in reality it was a battle between two opposing forces, nothing more. It was a victory, but it so incensed the government in Washington that vengeance was harsh. It was the beginning of the end for the freedom that we enjoyed for centuries. They drove my people hard, and eventually we were defeated and were forced onto reservations."
"That must have been tough."
"Yeah it was, at least that is what our stories say. Even today there is a lot of poverty on the reservations. Not everyone is as lucky as my family has been. Our ranch has been in the family for about 100 years. Anyway, that is the story of the Battle of the Little Big Horn."
"Thanks again, Jake. I'm glad you showed us this. I knew about it, you know, 'Custer's Last Stand' and all that. But the way you tell it, that's something special."
"Thanks. We should be heading back. Remember Robbie and his parents are coming for dinner tonight."
They got back in the trucks and left. Soon enough they were back at the ranch. The boys told Sean about what they had been doing. They heard Robbie's Jeep drive up, and the boys went out to see Robbie as he got out of his Jeep and came around to the passenger side, as a young lady with long dark red hair and blue eyes stepped down. Another older woman, Robbie's mother, came out of the rear passenger door as his father came around from the other side. Robbie draped his arm around the young lady and smiled as they come up the walk.
"Hi, Uncle Robbie."
When they entered, Jake, Sean and Tom stood up to greet the guests.
"Hi, everyone. Jake and family, I would like you to meet my fiancée, Ginny Kilpatrick."
"Fiancée? Why, you little sneak! We've been here all week and you never said a word."
"I was saving it as a surprise for this weekend."
"Well, you definitely surprised me. Congrats, bro." Jake hugged Robbie.
"Welcome to the family, Ginny."
Jake hugged her and gave her a brotherly peck on the cheek. She smiled at him.
"I'm glad to finally meet you, Jake. Robbie is always talking about you."
"I'm looking forward to getting to know you."
Jake released her and turned to Robbie's parents.
"Jim, Marian, it is really great to see you as well." He shook Jim's hand and gave Marian a hug.
"Let me introduce you to my family. These are my sons Trevor and Jeremy. You might remember Tom from when he came here with me, and this is his wife Terry and their two sons, my godsons, Zach and Jared. Guys, this is Robbie's mom and dad, James and Marian Brave Horse."
Everyone shook hands, or in the case of Marian, she hugged each of them. She hugged Trevor last and when she pulled back from Trevor, she looked at him and then flicked her eyes at Zach, before she smiled at Trevor and let him go. She turned to everyone.
"It is very good to meet all of you. Sean and Shayna have told me much about you, and we have been looking forward to meeting you all for a long time."
"Well, let's all have a seat in the living room and visit for a while. Dinner will be done soon."
Shayna directed everyone to the living room and they sat down. She, Terry and Marian went to the kitchen and returned with coffee, tea, and cokes for everyone. The ladies went back into the kitchen to finish the preparation.
"So, little brother, when's the big day?"
"How long has this been planned?"
"About six months."
"Why didn't you call and let me know?"
"I wanted to save it until I saw you, because I wanted to ask you to be my best man."
"I'd be honored."
"So you will still be here?"
"Yes, like I said, we'll be visiting for a few weeks."
"So how'd you two meet?"
"At Montana State, she got her BA in education last year and was able to land a job teaching in Hardin. She teaches 5th grade at Hardin Intermediate. We started going out about two years ago, and she said yes when I asked."
"Good. Where are you from, Ginny?"
"I was born in Scotland near Edinburgh, but we moved to the US when I was seven, because my dad was transferred to Seattle by the company he works for. When I went to college, my dad was able to get transferred back home, and they moved back to Scotland. I fell in love with Montana and wanted to stay here, and so here I am."
"That is where I was when I was out of the country. I was meeting Ginny's parents and spending some time with them. They're great people; you'll get to meet them, because they'll be here for the wedding."
"Good, I look forward to it. So Dad, you've known about this and didn't say anything?"
"It was his story to tell, not mine; besides he made me promise."
They were interrupted by Shayna coming back into the room.
"Okay, everybody, let's eat."
They all got up and brought their drinks with them to the dining room. There was a buffalo roast, mashed potatoes, corn, baked beans, fresh baked rolls. The dinner was lively as everyone caught up with what they had been doing for the last week. Jim and Marian heard about what Jake had been doing. The food and the company were good. After dinner they returned to the living room. Shayna brought out some hot drinks for everyone. They visited for a little while before Sean got up and went to stand by the fireplace.
"Excuse me, everyone."
They quieted down and looked towards him.
"I want to thank you all for being here. It is good to get family together like this to visit and catch up. There is another reason I have invited you all here tonight, and it is an important one. It is going to affect everyone, and may be a bit of a shock to some of you."
He was silent for a few moments as he looked at each of the people in the room. His serious look was met by various looks from the others, curiosity, puzzlement, and expectation.
"Shayna, Jim and Marian know what this is about, but the rest do not. Let me start off first with saying to you, Tom and Terry, because I expect you two to be a little surprised by what I am about to say. You need to know this because you are part of our family, and even more so now than before."
"I don't understand, Sean. What's going on? What are you talking about?"
"Tom, Terry, there is no other way to say this, as hard as it will be to believe but... magic is real. There is real magic in this world."
"Wha..." ha ha ha ha "Good one, you had me going there. I was starting to get nervous about real mag... you're serious."
He noticed that Sean remained serious, and looking around he and Terry noticed looks, mostly mixtures of slight surprise, to nodding heads. He and Terry looked at each other.
"Magic? As in cast a spell, turn people into toads, magic?"
"Not Las Vegas act type magic. Real actual, make things disappear in thin air, type magic?"
"Okay, what's the joke?"
"There is no joke, Tom. There really is magic. My friends, if you would join me."
Slowly a glow started to grow around Sean, Marian and Robbie. Tom and Terry's mouths dropped open as they stared at everyone.