Castle Roland

Dreams Don't Grow On Trees

by Owen Hudson

In Progres

Chapter 20

Posted: 11 Jun 15

Dreams Don't Grow on Trees

Copyright © 2011 - 2013 Owen Hudson

The last week of school before Christmas vacation finally arrived. Adam was beside himself, knowing that he'd be getting a horse for Christmas; and was surprised to come home from school and see heavy equipment in the pasture.

"What are they doing?" Adam asked his dad.

"They're digging the pond."

"Wow, can I go watch?"

"Alright, but stay back out of the way. I'll go with you to see what they've done."

"Is that where the horse will drink?"

"Yes, but remember, we had to agree to keep animals out of the creek. So we'll have to provide water until it rains enough to fill the pond. I'll have a water tank sent out from the store."

"Hello, Darrell," Steve Center, the contractor, said, as they approached.

"Hi, Steve, how's it going?"

"We're finished here; eventually, you'll have a nice big pond. It's large enough you can even stock it with fish and have a fishing pond too."

"Dad, can I go look?" Adam asked, being impatient to see the newly dug pond.

"Alright, but look from the edge. You still have your school clothes and shoes on."

"Alright, I will, Dad."

"Stop by the house and I'll write you a check."

"That's okay; I'll just mail the bill to you."

"Hey, Dad, I thought you said we had to wait for rain for there to be water in the pond," Adam called out.

"We do."

"Well, there's water already in there."

"I thought it was pretty wet when we were digging," Steve said. "I think you may have a spring-fed pond."

"What does that mean?" Adam asked.

"It means we don't have to wait for rain," Darrell explained. "There's an underground stream of water there."

"Come and look," Adam said.

"It must be a good stream," Steve said. "There's already about six inches of water there."

"Look, Brandy and Lucky want to come and see," Adam pointed out when he saw the two dogs sitting at the edge of the electronic fence.

"Why are they just sitting there?" Steve asked.

"It's an electronic fence," Darrell explained. "They'll get a shock if they cross over it."

"Could we move the fence, so they can play in the pond?" Adam asked.

"We'll think about it later. Right now, it's too cold for them to be in the water anyway."

"Hey, Haden, we have a pond," Adam announced upon entering the kitchen.

"I know," Haden said as he removed a ham from the oven. "I saw them working."

"But we have a pond with water."

"We have a pond that will have water, you mean."

"No, it's spring fed. We already have water."

"Wow, that's great."

"That looks good," Adam said as he watched Haden slice the ham. "I'm hungry."

"You're always hungry," Haden laughed.

"Well, I'm a growing boy," Adam countered.

"I'll say you are," Darrell agreed. "Look at your jeans. I think it's time to go shopping for new ones."

"Dinner's ready," Haden announced. "Adam, will you let Amy know, then wash up and set the table?"

"Do I have to do everything around here?" Adam giggled as he rushed out of reach of the kitchen towel that Haden tried to pop him with.

"Hey, aren't we going to the hospital fitness center?" Adam asked when Haden picked him up at school and headed toward home later in the week.

"Not today... we're going to Grandma's and Grandpa's for dinner. Dad's leaving work a little early; we'll leave as soon as he gets home."

"I'll send Grandpa out," Amy said when they arrived at the grandparents.

"Don't get out," Darrell said, when Adam unbuckled his seat belt. "Walter is going to show us something."

"What's he showing us?" Adam asked with some skepticism.

"He just said he had something to show us when we got here."

"Hi, Grandpa," Adam greeted when he arrived. "What are you showing us?"

"Hi, Adam, and everybody," Walter said with a slight grin, ignoring Adam's question. "Take a right at the road, it's about two miles."

"Grandpa ...."

"Adam, Perry mentioned that you have a spring-fed pond," Walter said, again interrupting Adam.

"Yeah, it's neat, and it already has a lot of water."

"I thought I told you to stay away from there without an adult with you," Darrell reprimanded.

"I was with him, Dad," Haden said.

"Alright," Darrell said. "Adam, I'm sorry, but I love you, and we don't know about stability of the pond banks yet."

"I know, Dad."

"Turn left at the intersection, it's the first house on the right," Walter interrupted.

"Am I getting my horse from here?" Adam asked when he saw several horses in the pasture.

"No, I'm getting one and you're getting my mule," Walter teased.

"Oh, Grandpa, you're funny," Adam giggled.

"Bill, this is my son-in-law Darrell," Walter said, when the owner came out to greet them. "And these are my grandsons Haden and Adam."

"I'm pleased to meet you," Bill said. "I have three horses picked out for you to choose from. They're in the corral."

"I like that gray one," Adam immediately said, upon seeing the horses.

"You asked for gentle ones, and he's the gentlest one I have," Bill said.

"Which one do you like, Haden?" Darrell asked.

"Hey, why does Haden get one too," Adam asked. "He's getting a ski trip."

"First, it wouldn't be just for Haden," Darrell sternly said. "You're not riding by yourself until you're experienced. The other horse is for Haden or me to ride with you. Now, if you're going to be selfish, we won't get a horse... period."

"Dad, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it that way."

"Yes, you did, now apologize to Haden."

"Haden, I'm sorry."

"It's okay, little brother."

"Now, Haden, which one do you like?"

"I like the bay, he reminds me of Joe."

"He'd be my choice too."

After paying for the horses, it was agreed that Bill would deliver the horses the next day. Adam wanted to insist they be delivered the same day, but knew he was already on shaky grounds with his father.

"I wish we could have them home tonight," Adam finally said on the ride back to the grandparents.

"They'll be there tomorrow," Darrell said. "Besides, you have school tomorrow, and we still have to get a saddle for you."

"Dad, we still have our old saddle in the barn," Haden reminded him.

"You and I will be using that one; we'll get a new one for Adam," Darrell smiled. "Remember, you're getting a ski trip."

"How come Adam gets a new saddle and I don't?" Haden laughed.

"Shut up, Haden," Adam said. "I already said I'm sorry."

"You know I'm just teasing you," Haden said, while ruffling his brother's hair.

"You're just in time," Grace said as she placed a platter of fried chicken on the table. "Amy and I thought we might be eating alone."

"Where's everyone else?" Adam asked.

"Honey, the rest of the family had plans," Grace said, while hugging Adam. "I guess I get to spoil just you tonight."

"Grandma, this chicken is even better than what Haden or Amy makes," Adam said between bites.

"Thank you, Adam," Grace beamed. "But Amy and Haden are good cooks too."

"No, Grandma, he's right," Haden agreed.

"I learned her secret tonight," Amy said.

"What's the secret?" Haden asked.

"Garlic powder," Amy said. "I would never have thought of adding that to the seasoning."

"My you're a nice young man," Grace said, when Adam rinsed his plate and placed it in the dishwasher, and did the same as each finished eating.

"It's my job at home," Adam said. "My job used to be to clean the bathrooms, but Dad hired Heidi to clean for us."

"I didn't know you had a housekeeper now," Grace said.

"The kids were struggling, keeping up the housework and their grades too," Darrell explained. "Also, Heidi needed the work."

Adam may as well have stayed home the last day of school before Christmas break... the anticipation of getting his horse was the only thing on his mind. Of course, Darrell would never have approved.

"Dad, did he bring the horses yet?" Adam asked as soon as his dad picked him up at school.

"Well, hello, to you too."

"Hi, Dad... well, did they?"

"I don't know, but Haden stayed home today to accept them. He's also bought feed."

"Haden missed school?"

"He and Amy are finished for this semester."

"Will it be my job to feed the horses?"

"Not at first. I want to make sure they're as gentle as promised. Later, you may get that job."

"Who'll feed them until then?"

"Either Haden or I will, but you'll help, so the horses can get to know you too."

"Can we ride today?"

"What about a saddle?"

"Crap ... I mean shoot. What time was he bringing the horses?"

"I don't know... don't be so impatient."

"I can't help it, Dad."

"I guess I was a little bit that way when I was your age too."

"They're here! They're here!" Adam exclaimed, and was out of the SUV as soon as Darrell stopped.

"Hold on, cowboy. Come here a minute. You have to help me carry some things."

"Can't we do it after we see the horses?"

"We'll do it now."

"A saddle!" Adam shouted when Darrell opened the rear door of the SUV. "What's this other stuff?"

"There're halters, bridles, saddle pads, and blankets."

"Wow, Dad, thanks," Adam said while hugging his dad.

"Well, let's get all of this tack to the barn."

"What's tack?"

"These things are tack."

"Hey, Haden, come and see what Dad got," Adam called out as Haden approached.

"Nice saddle, remember you get the old one, and Dad and I'll use the new one."

"Oh, okay," Adam said, giving his dad a questioning look.

"Haden's just teasing you; remember, he gets the ski trip."

"I really am sorry I said that yesterday."

"I know, and I'm proud of you for just agreeing to the old saddle."

"At least, I have a horse."

"No, what I'm saying is you didn't argue if you got the old one. The new one is yours."

"Thanks, Dad. I wonder what my horse's name is."

"Bill said it was Dusty, but I guess you could change it," Haden said.

"Dusty's good enough; I wouldn't want my name changed from Adam. Haden, what's your horse's name?"

"Our horse," Darrell corrected with a smile, knowing that in reality, it was actually Haden's horse.

"Bill said it's Barney."

"Let's put a saddle on Dusty and see how he does," Darrell suggested.

"Could I ride him?"

"For now you can only ride him while I lead him; tomorrow we'll go for a ride."

"Hey, Kyle, come and see the horses," Adam shouted when Kyle drove up.

"They're nice looking horses," Kyle said. "I wish I would have gone with you and bought one."

"You and Haden could go tomorrow and buy one," Darrell said. "The offer still stands for you to board it here."

"I know nothing about buying a horse, and Dad's no better."

"Haden, call your grandpa and ask him to go with you. He would know if you're getting taken. But Bill seemed to be honest."

"I haven't ridden in a long time... and that was when I was in ninth grade, when we visited our relatives in Tennessee."

"Maybe you should ask Bill for a gentle one. That's what we did. I guess we'll find out... I'm going to put a saddle on Dusty and adjust the stirrups for Adam."

"Which one's Dusty?"

"Dusty is the gray one, and he's mine," Adam proudly pointed out.

"What's your horse's name, Haden?"

"He's the family horse," Haden explained. "His name's Barney."

"Dad, could Barney be Haden's horse since Kyle's getting one too?" Adam sincerely pleaded.

"I think that'd be alright as long as I get to ride him some," Darrell said as he cinched the saddle girth. "Well, Dusty stood for the saddle. Now, Adam, let's adjust the stirrups for you. The way you're growing, it won't be long before we'll have to readjust them."

"How do I get on him?"

"If you're tall enough, you put your foot in the stirrup and swing your other leg over him."

"What if I can't reach it?"

"Then you can't ride alone until you can saddle Dusty and reach the stirrups."

"I could use a stepladder."

"No, you have to be able to do it without a ladder," Darrell said as he boosted Adam up onto the saddle.

After adjusting the stirrups, Darrell led Dusty around the barnyard with Adam riding. After a few rounds, Darrell said, "He seems plenty gentle. Now I'll give you the reins and let you ride by yourself." Following a few instructions, Adam was riding with confidence.

"That was Amy," Haden said as he placed his cell phone back in his pocket. "She said dinner's almost ready. Kyle, you're invited to stay for dinner."

"I was hoping for an invite. Mom and Dad are eating out."

"Kyle, you know you don't need an invitation to eat with us," Darrell said. "Okay, Son, time to unsaddle Dusty and feed him and Barney."

"I put hay out for them already," Haden said.

"I saw that," Darrell said. "Okay, Adam, whatever you do, don't over feed the horses. We have good winter pasture and good quality hay, so they don't need a lot of grain. We used to give Joe a coffee can full."

"I brought one out earlier," Haden said.

"That's a small can," Adam said.

"That's plenty. If they're ridden for a long period, we can give them just a little bit more. Now, whatever you do, make sure you secure the latch to the feed room. If one of them gets in there, they don't know when to stop eating the feed and they could founder."

"What's founder?" Adam asked.

"I don't fully understand it myself, but it can cause lameness."

"What are those metal things on their feet?"

"Those are horse shoes. They protect their feet."

"How do they keep them on?"

"They use horseshoe nails."

"That must really hurt."

"No, it's painless for them. Does it hurt when you cut your toenails?"

"No, I guess not."

"Haden, go ahead and open the gate, so the horses can get to the pond for water," Darrell said.

"I'll do it," Adam volunteered, and rushed to open the corral gate.

"This smells good, what is it?" Adam asked as the family sat to eat.

"It's Hungarian beef and noodles," Amy said. "I got the recipe from Debbie."

"It even tastes good," Adam proclaimed after the first bit

"What did you expect?" Amy laughed.

"Well, I expected it to be good... and it is," Adam said as he took another big bite.

"Adam, eat your cauliflower too," Amy said.

"Amy, there're vegetables in here. Besides, this is really good."

"There aren't that many vegetables in it." Amy said.

 "Son, eat your cauliflower," Darrell said.

"Alright, Dad," Adam agreed. "Haden, will you take me riding tomorrow?"

"Kyle and I are going to look for a horse for him."

"I'll go riding with you tomorrow," Darrell said.

"Cool," Adam smiled his agreement.

"Maybe Sunday I can go riding with you and Haden," Kyle said. "I guess I'll need a saddle too."

"I got Adam's at Ken's Tack out on the north side of town," Darrell said. "I got it for $600.00, but if you don't want to pay that much, I saw some at Harley's Pawn shop. Just be careful that you don't buy one that's stolen."

"Dad said he would buy my saddle, if I bought the horse," Kyle said.

"Then I'd get the new one," Adam said. "I'm just kidding, Dad."

"You'd better be," Darrell laughed. "Haden, don't forget to call your grandpa."

"I'll call now."

"What did he say?" Kyle asked, after Haden made the call.

"He said he'd call Bill, then call me back. Grandpa suggested that we be there by 9:00. That way, maybe Bill would deliver it tomorrow."

"Then we'd still have time to go buy a saddle," Kyle said.

"Bill had a roan in the corral with the two we got," Darrell said. "He said they were the three gentlest ones he had."

"It's Grandpa," Haden said when he looked at his ringing phone. "Hi, Grandpa ... Yes, we can be there by 8:00. Kyle might be interested in that roan we saw... Okay, we'll see you tomorrow... Okay, tell Grandma we'll be there... I love you too. Goodbye."

"What time will I need to pick you up?"

"Grandma said to be there at 8:00 and have breakfast with them. So I guess we need to leave here at 7:30."

"Will I have to cook my own breakfast, then?" Adam asked.

"I'll be here," Amy said.

"I also know how to cook," Darrell added. "So, you're not going to go hungry."

"I bet I could scramble eggs," Adam said.

"Tomorrow morning I'll let you help me make breakfast," Amy said. "We'll start with scrambled eggs and bacon."

"Grandma and Grandpa, this is Kyle," Haden said, when they arrived at the grandparents.

"We're pleased to meet you, Kyle," Grace said. "Breakfast is almost ready. Walter, would you pour them a cup of coffee?"

"You guys see how she bosses me around?" Walter said with a wink.

"Grandpa, sit still," Haden said. "I'll get it."

"Grace, see how well our grandson treats me," Walter teased.

"This is a delicious breakfast," Kyle said as he enjoyed another of Grace's homemade biscuits with her homemade strawberry jam. "Thank you ... I feel uncomfortable calling you Grace and Walter, but I don't know your last name."

"Just call us Grace and Walter, or better still, call us Grandma and Grandpa," Grace said. "One can't have too many grandparents."

"And grandparents can't have too many grandchildren," Walter added. "Well, it's almost 9:00; I suppose we should be on our way."

"I'll help Grandma clean up right quick first," Haden offered.

"Thank you, but I can handle it," Grace said. "I know Kyle's anxious to get a horse."

"Thank you for the delicious breakfast, Grandma," Kyle said.

"Yes, Grandma, thank you, it was a great breakfast," Haden agreed.

"I see that Bill has the roan and a bay in the corral," Walter said, when they arrived.

"The roan's a nice looking horse," Kyle said. "Haden, I'm surprised you didn't go for him."

"Barney reminded me of Joe, our previous horse," Haden said. "But I would've been happy with either one."

After agreeing on a price, Bill agreed to deliver the roan by early afternoon. "That'll give us time to buy a saddle," Kyle said. "What's his name?"

"I just call him Red," Bill said.

"That pretty much describes him," Walter laughed.

"Haden, would you call Dad and ask him to meet us to buy the saddle," Kyle said on the drive back to Sparks.

Steve was already at the tack shop when Haden and Kyle arrived. They found him inside looking over different saddles. "This is a nice one," he said.

"Dad, that one is almost $1000," Kyle pointed out. "Darrell got one for Adam that was $400 less. I would rather get one for $600, and you give me $400 toward the horse."

"Your mother and I talked it over, and we're going to reimburse you for the horse too."

"Thank you, Dad, but really the $600 saddle is plenty good enough."

"I'd love to sell you the $1000 saddle, but he's right, the $600 saddle is actually just as well made," the salesman, who was standing by, said.

"Why is it more expensive then?" Steve asked.

"It has a hand tooled fancy design."

"Then we'll take the $600 one," Steve said.

"Don't forget, you'll need a saddle pad, blanket, bridle, and a halter," Haden pointed out.

"I guess it's a good thing we're getting the $600 saddle, then," Steve smiled.

"Thank you, Dad," Kyle said, after giving his dad a hug.

"You're welcome, Son," Steve said. "Since I've already spent this much money; I may as well buy your lunch too."

"Dad, I'm not hungry," Kyle said. "Grandma cooked a big breakfast for us."


"Well, Haden's grandma, but she asked me to call them Grandma and Grandpa."

"I think he's just anxious to get out to the house and be there when Red's delivered," Haden said.

"Don't tell me you're hungry," Kyle said in surprise.

"Not really, but don't tell me you're not anxious about the delivery either," Haden countered. "I'll fix us a sandwich later."

"Well, I'm going to stop and get something," Steve said. "I'll be out later to see this Red that you've fallen in love with."

Bill was unloading Red when Steve arrived. Dusty and Barney nickered a greeting that was quickly answered by Red.

"He is a nice looking horse," Steve admitted. "It makes me want to get one now."

"I have several more for sale," Bill said. "My son gentle breaks every one of them before we sell 'em."

"You'd be more than welcome to board it here," Darrell offered.

"Darrell, why don't you get one too?"

"I've spent a lot of money on two horses already, plus tack," Darrell admitted.

"Yeah, Dad, get one too, and we can all go riding," Adam pleaded, still mounted on Dusty.

"Who's going to pay for another horse?"

"I'll give you my savings."

"No, Son, it's your money," Darrell said as he patted Adam's leg.

"Darrell, it would be fun to go riding with the boys," Steve said.

"I know it would, but as I said, I've already spent a lot of money," Darrell argued. "But, I'll go with you when you're ready to go look."

"How about right after Christmas?" Steve asked.

"Alright, I'm taking some time off work to be with the kids during the holidays anyway," Darrell said.

"Call me, and I'll have some ready for you to select from," Bill said.

"How many horses do you have anyway?" Adam asked.

"Son, I lost count a long time ago," Bill laughed. "I think it's somewhere around 50, not counting the colts and fillies."

"What's a filly?" Adam asked.

"A colt is a young male horse, and a filly is a young female," Bill explained.

"Is Dusty a colt?" Adam wanted to know.

"He's four years old, so he's considered a horse."

"How do you remember all this stuff?"

"I have to keep a ledger," Bill admitted. "Well, I'd better get home, or my wife will be calling wondering what's taking me so long."

"Kyle, why don't you saddle Red and see how he does," Darrell suggested.

"I've never saddled a horse before, will you show me how?" Kyle admitted.

Darrell took the time to show Kyle how to bridle and saddle Red. He explained each step as they went along. Not only did Kyle carefully observe each step, but so did Steve. While Darrell saddled Red, Haden saddled Barney.

"This is fun," Adam observed, as the three rode out into the pasture.

"Yeah, you're like an old pro," Kyle said, as Adam began to demonstrate his horsemanship.

"Adam, remember we can't ride every day when school starts back," Haden reminded him.

"Why not?" Adam asked.

"We'll have homework and chores to do," Haden explained. "We can ride on weekends."

"Shit!" Adam exclaimed.

"What did you say?" Haden asked, trying to hide a smile.

"Adults aren't around to hear it," Adam reasoned.

"Kyle and I are adults," Haden said.

"You don't count, you're guys," Adam said.

"He has a point," Kyle laughed.

"Don't encourage him," Haden said. "He'll forget and let it slip out in the wrong company."

"I will not," Adam protested.

"It looks like rain's moving in," Haden observed. "We'd better get back to the barn."

"We can ride in the rain," Adam objected.

"There'll be plenty of other times to ride," Haden reminded him.

"Do we need to brush them when we get back?" Adam asked. "I saw them do that on TV."

"We'll skip this time," Haden said. "We don't need to groom them as often in the winter when they have their winter coat."

"Winter coat" .... Adam laughed.

"Their long hair is their winter coat," Haden explained. "It helps keep them warm. If we groom them too much in the winter, we could remove too much of their winter coat."

"I didn't know that," Kyle admitted.

"That stall can be Red's," Haden said, when they arrived back at the barn.

"Do we need to lock them in their stalls?" Adam asked.

"Just until we get their feed out for them," Haden explained. "We need to get them used to going into their own stall to eat. We have to lock them in their stalls so they don't all go in one stall to eat. They'll eventually learn the routine."

"I forgot to buy feed," Kyle said.

"You can buy every third bag," Haden suggested. "But maybe we should wait and let Dad and Steve work it out."

"Hey, Haden, there's something wrong with Dusty's legs," Adam called out.

"Where?" Haden asked as he entered Dusty's stall.

"There, on the inside," Adam pointed out.

"Oh, that's nothing," Haden said. "It's just a chestnut."

"Come on, Haden, what is it?" Adam asked.

"It's normal; and it really is called a chestnut," Haden explained. "You can ask Dad, if you don't believe me."

"I've learned something again," Kyle admitted.

It had been agreed upon that the families would have a pre-Christmas dinner together, then each family could spend Christmas Day in their own way... the VFW building had been rented for the event. With her experience in providing meals for large groups, Grace agreed to coordinate the meal. She also agreed to cook the turkey and make the dressing. The other family members were assigned various items for the dinner.

Adam was anxious to see his cousins and, of course, he wanted to tell them about Dusty. He had several pictures also; and it was their consensus that Dusty was indeed a handsome horse. Darrell had cautioned Adam about gloating about getting a horse.

The 'other family' members loved Grace, Walter, and the rest of their family. "I can't believe how nice they are, knowing how Brenda is," Linda whispered to Debbie.

Adam, Haden, and many others took dozens of picture... each promised to share. Adam couldn't believe all of the food. Before becoming a Harrington, he'd often made do with a peanut butter sandwich - and often worried if there'd be a next meal. He tried to sample some of everything, but decided he needed to save room for dessert.

Ethan invited Adam and Justin to spend the night with him, but the parents nixed that plan since it was close to Christmas. "We'll discuss it after Christmas," Darrell said.

"Haden, I understand you and Kyle are going skiing in North Carolina," Scott said, as the adults enjoyed their after dinner coffee.

"Yes, we're going the day after Christmas," Haden said. "I've never skied before, but Kyle said he has."

"You'll have fun," Scott said. "We went two years ago, and we had a blast. Where are you staying?"

"One of Dad's friends has a condo that we're using," Kyle said.

"I may ride with Adam while you're gone, if you don't mind me riding Barney," Perry said.

"Sure, that would be fine," Haden agreed. "Why don't you bring Bonnie to our place, and you can ride with all of us?"

"I don't have a way to haul her there," Perry said.

"I don't think Bill would charge much; especially, if he's making another delivery," Walter said. "But you're more than welcome to leave her where she is."

"Well it would be nice to have someone to ride with," Perry admitted. "Grandpa, I guess it wouldn't hurt to find out how much it'd cost to haul her."

"Walter, go ahead and ask him; I'll pay since I'll be boarding mine at Darrell's place," Steve said.

"I can manage to pay," Perry argued.

"No, you have a baby on the way, let me do this," Steve said.

"Grandpa, I'll drop by and pick up my tack," Perry said.

"You know where it is," Walter chuckled.

Christmas morning was a surprise to Adam when there were gifts for him under the tree. "I already got a horse and saddle," he said. "I thought those were my gifts for Christmas."

"You have to have something to open Christmas morning," Darrell said. "I don't think we could have wrapped Dusty and put him under the tree."

Amy gave Adam a photo album and a book about horses. Haden gave him saddle bags. There're more," Darrell said, after Adam opened his other gifts.

"I guess I missed it," Adam admitted as he found his gift from Darrell. "What is it?"

"Open it and see," Darrell said.

"Oh boy, a cell phone!" Adam exclaimed.

"There's going to be rules," Darrell said, "you're to turn it off at school. If you get caught using it during school hours, it will be taken away from you."

"I promise not to use it during school hours," Adam said. "Thank you, Dad."

"There's one more," Rita, who was there to enjoy Christmas Day with the family, said.

"I didn't see any more," Adam admitted.

"Oh, dumb me, I forgot to put your name on it," Rita said. "It's that one there."

"Wow, cowboy boots!" Adam remarked, and gave Rita a hug.

"Amy gave me your shoe size; if they don't fit, you can take them back and get the correct size. Go ahead and try them on."

"Adam, you have to try them on with socks," Darrell laughed, when Adam took off his house shoes. "Go get a pair of socks."

"They fit," Adam said, after he tried on the boots.

"Come here and let me check," Darrell said. "We need to make sure before you wear them."

"Dad, they fit," Adam said.

"They probably do, but I want to make sure," Darrell said.

"Adults are more difficult to shop for," Rita said. "So, I gave you young adults gift certificates."

"What's this?" Rita asked, when Amy handed her an envelope.

"It's from all of us for you and Dad," Amy said. "We all pitched in, even Adam."

"Darrell, look at this," Rita said. "It's a weekend on the Gulf Shores. You kids shouldn't have done this. This is too much."

"I was afraid Adam would let it slip," Amy admitted. "He kept the secret, though."

"Amy, give me some credit," Adam countered.

"I'll have to call Perry and Lacey and thank them too," Rita said.

"They'll be at Grandma's and Grandpa's for dinner," Haden said. "You can thank them, then."

"I thought they would be here to open gifts," Rita said.

"They're at her parents since they won't be there for dinner," Darrell explained.

"Could I wear my new boots to Grandma's and Grandpa's?" Adam asked.

"Sure," Darrell agreed.

With the activities of Christmas over, Haden and Kyle departed for the mountains of North Carolina. "I'll help take care of Barney and Red," Adam promised.

"I don't see any snow," Haden said as they ascended into the mountains.

"There may not be any," Kyle admitted.

"Then how are we going to ski?"

"They can make their own snow. It's not the same as the real thing, but still a lot of fun. But there may be some snow as we get higher into the mountains."

"There's a few patches of snow now," Haden observed as they ascended even higher. By the time they arrived at the condo, they saw that there was a decent amount of snow.

"Wow, this is nice," Haden said, when he saw the condo. There were two bedrooms, a decent size kitchen, a fireplace, and a view of the mountains. "We should have brought some wood for the fireplace."

"I bet they sell bundles at the grocery store we passed. We probably should go there and buy a few things anyway."

"Yeah, it would cost less if we cooked here."

"I was thinking the same thing. But maybe we could eat dinner out a least once while we're here."

"We're lucky your dad got this condo for us."

"I'll say... I checked the ski lift prices and they're a little steep. Dad said he and your dad paid less than a hotel room would cost. A friend of his from law school owns this condo and didn't want to charge, but Dad insisted that they pay something."

"Let's make a list of what we need and then go shopping."

"Why don't we have steaks tonight?"

"That sounds good; we can have baked potatoes and a salad too."

"And we can have bacon and eggs in the morning. We should check if we need coffee filters."

"Hey, there's coffee filters and all kinds of spices."

"Dad said we were allowed to use anything in the kitchen, including food."

"There's coffee here too."

"Then I guess we can mark coffee off our list."

After shopping, Haden put the potatoes in the oven for baking, while Kyle got the fire started in the fireplace. "Do you realize this will be our first night to spend alone together?" Kyle said.

"Yeah, and it's a romantic setting too."

"We'll have to remember that we came here to ski too."

"I'm nervous about that. Remember, I've never skied before."

"I checked, and they have some beginner lessons. You can at least ski down the amateur slopes... I'll ski them with you."

"Thank you, that's sweet of you."

Haden woke the next morning with Kyle sleeping next to him. 'I hope life is always like this,' he thought. 'We finally have a stable family life, Adam has added a new energy to our family, and Dad has found a new love. Yes, life is good.'

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