Castle Roland

Dreams Don't Grow On Trees

by Owen Hudson

In Progres

Chapter 21

Posted: 11 Jun 15

Dreams Don't Grow on Trees

Copyright © 2011 - 2013 Owen Hudson

Haden managed to ski down the amateur slope with no broken bones. He and Kyle enjoyed their time together as Haden learned to ski. As Kyle said as they prepared to go home, "This has been kind of like being married." After cleaning the condo and packing, it was time to lock up and head down the mountain.

"Let's leave the nonperishable food here," Haden suggested as they packed. "We did use some of their items from the pantry."

It was a bittersweet feeling on the drive back home. Kyle and Haden had enjoyed their time alone, but missed their families. "Do you think Adam has taken good care of our horses?" Kyle asked.

"Are you kidding? Adam loves animals. However, Dad isn't letting him take care of them by himself until he's sure they're safe for Adam to be around. Dad has also talked to him about safety around the horses, including not walking behind them."

"Adam's a good kid."

"He has his moments ... but yes, he's a great kid. I can't imagine our family without him."

"Does he ever ask about his mom?"

"I think he still loves her, because she's his mom, but he's made it clear that he doesn't want to ever see her again. And I'm the same way about my mom."

Well, you're lucky to have a little brother. I wish my little brother had lived."

"You had a little brother?" Haden asked in surprise.

"Yes, but I don't remember him; I was just over two when he was born. He lived just one day. I was told that he was born with a deformed heart. I understand that it was really rough for Mom and Dad ... especially Mom. Mom sort of rejected me until Grandma insisted she see a counselor. Grandma moved in with us and helped take care of me until Mom was well enough."

"Wow, I didn't know this. Have Steve and Linda ever thought about adopting?"

"I don't know, but it would be great if they could find an Adam to adopt."

"There's only one Adam, but I'm sure there're lots of kids out there who need to be adopted. As you know, Debbie and Paul adopted; and you see that worked out well. Maybe Rita could talk them into fostering a child first."

"The next time I see her when Mom and Dad aren't around, I'll talk to her about it. Maybe you and I could adopt once we graduate from college."

"Are you kidding? Our redneck state isn't going to allow a gay couple to adopt."

"We do happen to know a good attorney ... I'm sure Dad could win."

"Yeah, he's a great attorney, but this is the Bible Belt we're living in. We'd probably have to move away to a more liberal state; a state that recognizes same-sex marriages."

"Why not work to change things here?"

"I doubt we could live long enough to change the way people around here think. The Civil War was almost 150 years ago - and people still treat black people as inferior."

"Haden, I've tried to make friends with black classmates, but they keep to themselves."

"That doesn't mean we can't keep trying. Think about it, though. Even after they were freed as slaves, they weren't really free. White men wearing sheets over their heads came after them and hung them for no reason other than they were black. Even today, our state has passed voter laws designed to keep them from voting."

"I've seen white people being nice to black people."

"We all have, but how many are sincere? Just recently Dad fired an employee after he rang up a sale to a black customer. He was all smiles and 'have a nice day and thank you for your purchase.' But after the customer left the store, he said, 'I'm surprised that nigger's credit card went through.' Dad fired him on the spot."

"Good, I'm glad your dad did that. But not everyone is like that employee."

"There're still too many like him."

"Yeah, I guess you're right. I'll do my best to make friends with the black people I know."

"Good, but don't be condescending."

"Give me some credit."

"I'm not saying you would do it on purpose, but I, too, find it difficult to make friends with black people. I'm just saying we should treat them with respect, the same as we do everyone else. They don't trust us, and I don't blame them. Just the other day, I held the door open for a black student. She gave me a look that I don't know if it was in disbelief or what. She would likely never want to be my friend, but then again, we never know."

"How did we get on this subject anyway?"

"I don't know, but it's something that should be discussed more."

"I agree. I'm hungry, do you want to stop for lunch?"

"I didn't realize we'd been driving this long. Yeah, let's stop at the next town."

"What kin I get y'all to drink?" The plump, middle age waitress with several missing teeth asked when Kyle and Haden stopped at a small caf.

"Coke for me," Haden said.

"Same for me," Kyle said.

"Yuns ain't from around here?" The waitress asked, as she slopped the drink glasses down.

"No, we're just passing through," Haden said.

"What kin I get fer y'all? The special is a fried fish samwich."

"I'll have the grilled chicken sandwich," Kyle said.

"I think I'll have the same," Haden agreed.

"Y'all here fer business?" Kathy - they had learned the waitress's name - asked.

"No, we're just passing through," Kyle again explained, trying to hide his annoyance at her being nosy.

"Well, where y'all been?"

"Up in the mountains," Haden answered; he too was becoming annoyed.

"Order up," the black cook called out.

"I'm sorry, but I ordered grilled chicken, not fish," Haden said when he examined his sandwich.

"James, you sumbitch, you screwed up this order," Kathy yelled out.

"No, Ma'am," James answered. "That's wat it says on the ticket."

"You dumb ... you ain't got no brain," Kathy yelled even louder. "Y'all need to learn to read."

"It says fish sandwich right here on the ticket," Kyle said, as he looked at the ticket.

"The dumb ass probably changed it," Kathy argued. "If'en I cud finds me a white cook, I'd fire the ni... sumbitch."

"Here's $2.00 for the drinks," Haden said, slamming the money on the table. "We'll find another place to eat."

"Y'all owes fer two samwiches," Kathy argued.

"Screw you," Kyle said as they walked out the door.

Haden couldn't help but notice that James was smiling as they left.

"I really thought we were past that," Kyle said, as they drove away.

"It's still with us, however, most are smarter than she is and hide it. If she had just admitted she made a mistake, I would've taken the fish sandwich. "

"There's a Denny's ahead," Kyle said, after driving a while. "Will that do?"

"It has to be better than what we just encountered."

"I don't know how she stays in business."

"The place wasn't exactly overrun with customers. And most of the few in there appeared to be her type."

"They're here," Adam called out when Haden and Kyle arrived home.

"I missed you too," Haden said as Adam gave him a hug before giving one to Kyle.

"Kyle, you're staying for dinner!" Amy called out from the kitchen.

"Come and tell us about your ski trip," Tony, who was in the kitchen helping Amy, said. "I don't see any casts."

"Haden did okay for his first time," Kyle said.

"I was talking about you," Tony teased.

"Where's Dad?" Haden asked.

"He's having dinner with Rita," Amy said.

"Hey, Kyle, your dad and my dad bought horses," Adam said. "We all went riding. Haden, Justin rode Barney, was that okay?"

"It's okay since Dad was there," Haden agreed. "What are their horses' names?"

"Dad's is Star, because he has a star on his forehead, and Steve's is Duke," Adam explained.

"All he ever talks about is horses," Amy laughed.

"Well, all you talk about is Tony," Adam countered.

"He has you there, Hon," Tony laughed.

"Haden, will you take us riding tomorrow?" Adam begged.

"Who are us?"

"Justin and me," Adam said.

"What horse would Justin ride?"

"Well, Perry said he could ride Bonnie, and Steve said any of us could ride Duke when he wasn't riding."

"What do you say, Kyle? Do you want to ride tomorrow?" Haden asked.

"Sure, I'll pick up Justin on my way out here," Kyle agreed.

"Betty's been dropping him off here on her way to work," Amy said. "She didn't have anyone to leave him with while he's on Christmas break. I'll call Betty and tell her to just drop Justin off at your house."

"Tony, do you want to ride with us tomorrow?" Haden asked.

"I promised to go golfing with Cody tomorrow," Tony said. "However, if there're enough horses, Mark may want to ride."

"Well, Justin can ride Bonnie, and I don't think Dad would mind if Mark rode Star," Haden said.

"Dad's still taking some time off work," Amy pointed out. "You may want to ask him first."

"I know Dad will be working tomorrow," Kyle said. "So, Mark could ride Duke. Amy, what time does Betty bring Justin out?"

"About 7:30; she starts work at 8:00, but since you live closer to the store, she might be dropping Justin off at your house a little later than that. Justin has been eating breakfast with us, so Kyle, you and Justin can come out for breakfast. Tony, you could drop Mark off before you and Cody go golfing. You may as well come for breakfast too."

"That's a lot of people to cook breakfast for," Tony pointed out.

"Grandma gave me a breakfast casserole recipe," Amy said. "I'll fix it tonight and pop it in the oven in the morning."

"It had better be a big casserole," Tony argued.

"There'll be plenty," Amy assured him.

Amy began to wonder if the casserole was big enough, after all. Every morsel was consumed, and she offered to scramble some eggs and fry some bacon, but none took her up on the offer.

Adam quickly loaded the dishwasher and was ready to go for the ride, but noticed his dad enjoying another cup of coffee. "Dad, are you just going to sit there and drink coffee all morning?" He finally asked.

"I may just do that," Darrell laughed.

"Come on, Haden, let's go saddle the horses," Adam begged.

"We have plenty of time to ride," Darrell said. "Mark, have you ever ridden before?"

"No, and I'm a little nervous," Mark admitted.

"I hadn't until yesterday," Justin said. "I was nervous at first, but it's fun."

"Dad, do you want me to make another pot of coffee?" Amy asked.

"He doesn't want any more," Adam quickly answered.

"I might have another cup," Darrell smiled.

"Dad ..." Adam protested.

"Oh, alright, I'll have more coffee after we ride," Darrell laughed. "You boys make sure you have a jacket, it's chilly out this morning."

"I'll make some sandwiches and leave them in the refrigerator," Amy said. "I'm going to volunteer some time at Senior Solutions with Debbie."

Kyle saddled Red himself, but was unsure if he did it correctly. After checking, Haden declared it done correctly. Of course, Adam had to explain each step to Justin and Mark as their horses were saddled. Mark was a little timid about riding, but began to relax after a few rounds around the pasture.

"Dad, what are you doing?" Adam asked as Darrell dismounted Star at the gate Ray Reed had installed when he leased the Harrington property.

"Ray gave us permission to ride on his property as long as we made sure the gates were closed back. He has almost 600 acres."

"Dad, that's great," Haden remarked. "It was a little boring to just ride around our 20 acres."

"Riding's never boring," Adam argued.

"Wow, this is beautiful," Kyle remarked, as they rode over the crest of a hill overlooking a valley with a small stream of water. There was also a dam that formed a small lake.

"I wanted you guys to see this," Darrell said. "Ray and I used to ride here when we were young. We even camped out here a few times."

"Could we do that?" Adam asked.

"Not until it's warm, and I'd also have to ask Ray," Darrell explained. "I would probably leave it to you young people to camp out, though."

"Dad, you're not old," Adam said.

"Thanks, Son, but I'm not sure about sleeping on the ground."

"But, Dad, we have air mattresses."

"It was a lot of fun when we went camping at the lake," Mark said. "I might ask Dad if I could have a horse too. The people who owned the house before us had horses."

"Yeah, Mark, ask him," Adam encouraged him. "Cody could get one too."

"Tony might even want one," Kyle pointed out.

"If we ride our horses here, what would we do with them when we're sleeping?" Adam asked.

"We'd take turns guarding them the way the Indians used to do," Haden teased.

"Dad, is that true?" Adam asked.

"Haden's just pulling your leg," Darrell laughed. "I saw a portable electric fence when I was shopping for a saddle."

"How would we get it here?"

"It's lightweight, because it uses fiberglass posts and hot tape," Darrell explained. "It fits in a canvas bag that can be tied across the back of a saddle. We may need two, depending on how many horses there are."

"I wish we could go camping now," Mark said.

"Yeah, Dad, why can't we?" Adam chimed in.

"Because it's too cold; we don't have the portable electric fence; and you have to go back to school Monday," Darrell said. "Do you need any more reasons?"

"Yeah, I do," Adam smiled.

"The big one is, because I'm the boss of you," Darrell laughed. "If the weather's nice, we'll think about it when you're on spring break."

"I wish I had a horse, so I could go too," Justin said.

"Son, we'll figure out a way, so you can go too," Darrell said. "I'm sure there'll be a horse available for you to ride.

"I kinda wish I had my own horse," Justin admitted.

"I bet you could get one where we got ours," Adam said. "We could ask Grandpa to help find you one."

"I saw something on TV, where you could adopt a wild mustang for a $125 adoption fee," Kyle said. "I also noticed that they had some decent used saddles at the tack shop."

"We'd have to find someone to tame and break the mustang," Haden pointed out.

"A young man who works for me breaks horses on the side," Darrell said. "Jeff thinks the world of Betty; I bet he wouldn't charge much."

"I don't know if Mom and Dad would have $125 for a horse," Justin said.

"We'll figure something out, if you really want a horse," Darrell promised.

"Wow, that would be great," Justin smiled big.

"I'm hungry," Adam said.

"Why am I not surprised?" Darrell laughed.

"I'm hungry too," Mark admitted.

"Alright, we'll ride back to the house," Darrell said. "Remember, Amy was making sandwiches for us."

"We should have brought 'em with us, and we could eat 'em here," Adam said.

"We'll unsaddle the horses before we eat lunch," Darrell said as they arrived back at the barn. "We'll feed them later."

"Could we ride again after we eat?" Adam asked.

"We need to let the horses rest and graze," Darrell said.

"Dad, could I spend the night at Justin's?" Adam asked as he got a second sandwich from the tray of sandwiches.

"Not tonight, Son," Darrell said. "The entire family's going to Rita's for dinner."

"We are?" Haden asked.

"I'm sorry, Son, I guess we discussed it before you got back home," Darrell said.

"That okay, I didn't have plans anyway," Haden said.

"That looks good," Perry said when Rita placed rack of lamb on the table.

"It smells good too," Adam said.

The meal was superb. The rack of lamb was delicious, and it was served with roasted potatoes and asparagus. There was custard pie for dessert. After enjoying the meal, Darrell said, "Rita and I want to talk to you about something ... we plan to get married."

"That's great news," Perry quickly said.

"When's the wedding?" Haden asked.

"We haven't selected a date yet," Rita said.

"We thought about living here," Darrell said. "But we decided that wouldn't work, I know you kids wouldn't want to give up the horses."

"You got that right," Adam quickly stated.

"Our house is already too small as it is," Darrell said. "We thought about building a new house, but although the house is small, Rita likes it - and where it is."

"I do like the way it sits back from the highway, and I love the big lawn," Rita said.

"So, we looked into adding onto the house," Darrell said.

"Would you have to mortgage the place again, if you did that?" Amy asked.

"We would have to get a construction loan," Darrell agreed.

"But as soon as the house is finished, I'll put this house on the market," Rita added. "Once it's sold, we'll pay off the construction loan."

"We had some preliminary plans drawn up," Darrell said, as Rita went into the laundry room and returned with some drawings."

"This is the one I like," Darrell said as he spread the drawing out on the table.

"That looks really big," Lacey said.

"We'll be adding a three car garage with three bedrooms over the garage and a new back porch," Darrell explained. "Each of you would have your own room with your own bathroom. Our bedroom would be made larger by taking part of Amy's bedroom. I think the kitchen is large enough as it is. Haden's and Adam's bedroom and part of Amy's bedroom would become a den."

 "That has to cost a lot of money," Haden pointed out.

"Don't forget, since I own the lumber company, I get the material at wholesale," Darrell reminded him. "The major cost will be for the labor."

"There will even be some money left over when we sell this house," Rita added. "Well, are you kids okay with this?"

"It's going to be a really nice house," Amy said.

"I'm not really talking about the house," Rita said. "I'm wondering if you are okay with the marriage."

"I am, for sure," Haden said.

"Me too," Amy agreed.

"I'm happy as long as you two are happy," Perry said as Lacey nodded in agreement.

"Well, I'm not," Adam said with his arms crossed.

A shocked look came over Rita's face just before Adam burst into laughter and hugged her, then Darrell.

After the laughter died down, Rita said, "Don't forget, I get to be your wicked step-mother."

"No, you get to be my mom," Adam said.

"You're sweet," Rita said.

"When do you plan to start this project?" Lacey asked.

"As soon as Tommy Jamison finishes his current project; maybe next week, Darrell said. "We'll build the new bedrooms first, then I'll move into Adam's and Haden's old room while my old bedroom and bathroom are remodeled."

"I guess we'll need new furniture," Haden said.

"I have plenty of furniture," Rita said.

"Wouldn't you want to keep it in the house until it sells," Amy said. "I understand the house sells better if it looks lived in and not empty."

"Adam and I'll just continue using our twin beds for a while," Haden said.

"I want to keep the twin beds anyway," Adam said. "I might want to have friends sleep over."

"They're pretty beat up," Darrell said. "We may get new furniture for your bedroom."

"Hey, how come Adam gets new furniture," Haden teased.

"Shut up, Haden, I told you a long time ago that I was sorry," Adam countered.

"It's payback for what you just did to Rita," Haden laughed.

"You know, Dad, I was just thinking of how things have changed," Perry pondered. "I recall how we never went hungry, and if we really needed something, you somehow managed to get it. But no matter how hard you worked, we never seemed to get ahead. Now, look at this family."

"I've always felt rich since I've been part of the family," Adam stated. "Could I call you Mom after you and Dad get married?"

"Honey, you can call me Mom now, if you like," Rita eagerly agreed. "That goes for you other kids too. However, since you're not used to calling me mom, you may not be comfortable doing so ... it's up to you."

"Old habits are hard to break, but we'll give you all the respect due a mom," Haden said.

"I understand ... that's why it's up to you," Rita said.

"Thanks, Mom," Haden smiled big.

"Well, Hon, we'd better go before your parents go to bed," Perry said as he looked at his watch.

"Perry, are you going riding with us tomorrow?" Adam asked.

"Hold on," Amy said. "We're going shopping for pants that fit you tomorrow."

"I'd love to go along too," Rita said. "I think we should get him some knickers."

"What're knickers?" Adam asked.

"Just a minute and I'll show you," Rita said as she opened a photo album. "This is a picture of my granddad wearing knickers."

"Oh no, I'm not wearing something like that," Adam protested.

"We'll see tomorrow when we go shopping," Rita teased.

"I'd rather go riding," Adam objected.

"We'll go riding some other time," Darrell said.

"Dad, are you going too?" Adam asked.

"Do you mind?" Darrell laughed.

"Nope, since you're paying," Adam said. "Could we go riding when we get home from shopping?"

"Good grief, Adam, is that all you think about?" Amy asked.

"You got that right," Adam admitted.

Although Adam liked school, he wished he could continue riding every day.

Tommy had actually started construction of the expansion, but there was a short delay the first day, because the dogs wouldn't allow the workers to get out of their vehicles. Fortunately, Haden arrived home from his English Class and introduced the dogs to Tommy and his crew. "Would you sell one or both of those dogs?" Tommy asked, after making friends with them.

"I'm afraid my brother wouldn't approve," Haden laughed.

The weather cooperated with the construction with only a couple of days of rain and one with a light snowfall. Adam loved to watch the construction crew work, and Darrell had to remind him to stay out of the way. However, Tommy assured Darrell that Adam wasn't in the way.

As the construction of the new addition became near completion, Rita decided it was too nice for used furniture and bought new bedroom furniture for Adam's and Haden's rooms. Since Amy's furniture was new, Rita gave her the cash equivalent. Amy had protested that it wasn't necessary, but in the end, Rita won out. "I've never spent any of my late husband's life insurance money," she explained. "It's time to put it to good use."

The new furniture was delivered, and the new bedrooms were occupied. Rita suggested that the old furniture be donated to a family whose house burned and were starting over. Since new living room furniture would be purchased, the old living room furniture was also donated. Darrell moved into the boy's old bedroom to allow for the remodel and enlargement of his and Rita's future bedroom.

Tommy was able to give an estimated construction completion date, and a wedding date was set. It would be a small wedding at the church with family and friends. The Gulf Shores Christmas gift from the Harrington siblings was to be used for their honeymoon.

"Haden, would you mind if I asked Perry to be my best man?" Darrell asked as wedding plans were made.

"Of course not ... he's the oldest, after all," Haden agreed.

"In that case, I'd be honored to be your best man," Perry agreed.

"And, Amy, I want you to be my maid of honor," Rita said.

"I'd be honored, but Betty's your best friend," Amy said," wouldn't her feelings be hurt if you didn't ask her?"

"Betty would understand; but she's been my best friend since we were in fifth grade," Rita said. "Thank you, Amy, for understanding."

"Tell them the other good news," Darrell said.

"A retired couple from California bought my house," Rita smiled. "They want it with the furniture. So, Amy, would you like to go with me shopping for new furniture? We'll be shopping for new furniture for the living room, the den, and our bedroom. Darrell suggested a couch with a hide-a-bed for the den. I think it's a good idea too. The den could serve as a guest room."

"I don't think you need my help, but you know me - I love shopping," Amy laughed

The construction project was one day late, but didn't interfere with the wedding plans. "Why don't we have the reception at the house, so our friends and family can see what the house looks like?" Rita suggested.

Although it was a small wedding, it was beautifully done. The reception also became an open house, and those who hadn't seen the house since the remodel was completed were impressed. Although there were to be no gifts; it was suggested that instead of gifts, donations be made to CASA. Paul wouldn't take no for an answer when he offered to fly the newlyweds to the Gulf Shores, and even pay for a car rental.

"Would you mind if Adam hung out with you this afternoon, Tony and I sort of have plans?" Amy asked Haden after church the next day.

"Yeah, Haden, we could go riding," Adam quickly stated.

"Adam, it's raining," Haden said.

"We can wear raingear," Adam reasoned.

"It's a cold rain," Amy chimed in. "We'd never hear the end of it, if you got sick."

"Kyle and I were going to hang out at the mall," Haden said. "We could take him to a movie."

"Thank you, Haden," Amy said, as she gave her brother a quick hug.

"I still would rather go riding," Adam protested. "Could Justin at least go with us?"

"You'll have to ask Betty," Haden said.

"Ask Betty what?" Betty, who was a short distance away, asked.

"Could Justin go with us to a movie in Covington?" Adam asked.

"I don't mind, as long as the movie's age appropriate," Betty agreed.

"We'll make sure it is," Haden promised.

"Thank you," Betty said. "Will $20.00 cover everything?"

"I have everything covered," Haden said. "Dad left some cash with us for such things. You might want to give him a little spending money, in case he sees something he wants at the mall."

"Grant, do you have any cash on you, all I have is $5.00," Betty said as she looked through her wallet.

"It will be worth $20.00 to get rid of him for an afternoon," Grant laughed. "Now, you mind Haden and Kyle."

"I will, Dad," Justin promised. "Thanks."

"It'll be almost an hour before the movie starts," Haden said, after purchasing movie tickets. "What do you guys want to do until then?"

"Let's go to the arcade," Adam suggested.

"Alright, but you only get to spend $5.00," Haden warned him.

"Justin, don't you want to play?" Kyle asked.

"I'm saving my money to buy a horse," Justin said. "Dad said that he might afford a horse, but not a horse and saddle both."

"Justin, Dad promised he would see that you got a horse," Haden said. "Go ahead and have some fun."

"No, I'm saving my money; I want to make sure I get a horse," Justin said.

"Justin, Dad promised that you'd get a horse - you should trust him," Haden said.

"I just want to make sure," Justin said.

"Come on, Justin, we'll share my games," Adam said.

"We need to see that he gets his horse," Haden said while the boys played video games.

"I'll look online again about the wild horse adoptions," Kyle said.

"Thank you for spending the afternoon with Adam," Amy said when Haden, Adam, and Kyle arrived back at the Harrington's. "How did it go?"

"I only had to beat Adam once," Haden joked.

"You did not," Adam protested. "I had to beat you up."

"It was nice of you to take Justin," Tony said.

"Poor kid wouldn't spend any of his money, because he's saving for a horse," Kyle said.

"Grant told him he could maybe afford a horse, but not a horse and saddle," Haden added. "It would have to be an adoption of a wild horse for him to even afford that."

"Dad's buying horses for Cody, Mark, and himself," Tony said.

"Aren't you getting one too?" Haden asked.

"That's not my forte," Tony said.

"There's a horse adoption event at Wilson next weekend," Kyle said while showing his phone to Haden.

"Send me that link," Tony said.

"Let me stay home today," Adam said, when Haden woke him up for school the next morning.

"Are you ill?"

"No, I didn't get to go riding yesterday, because it was raining. We could go riding today."

"You know Dad wouldn't be happy about that."

"We wouldn't have to tell him."

"Adam, your attendance record is on your report card."

"Oh yeah, I forgot about that."

"If Amy will cook dinner, we'll go riding when you get home from school."

"Amy, will you cook dinner tonight?" Adam asked as he sat down to a plate of scrambled eggs and sausage that Amy had cooked.

"I'd already planned on cooking dinner, why do you ask?"

"Haden's going riding with me, if he doesn't have to cook dinner."

"What're your plans for today?" Haden asked.

"I'm going to just stay home," Amy said. "Tony's going with Paul to look at some horses."

"When will Dad and Mom be home?" Adam asked.

"Wednesday, Paul's flying down to pick them up," Amy explained. "It will be different, having Rita living here now."

"She's Mom," Adam said.

"I know, but it will take some time to get used to that," Amy avowed.

"Adam, you'd better get a move on," Haden said. "You'll be late for school. Thanks for the breakfast, Amy."

"You're welcome," Amy smiled. "Adam, be sure and wear your new jeans. I'll take your old ones and donate them to the shelter."

"I didn't know you were home already," Adam said, after giving Darrell and Rita a hug when he saw them waiting for him at the school entrance.

"We got home this afternoon, and we needed to let the school know that Rita may sometimes pick you up," Darrell explained.

"Why couldn't she, isn't she my mom now?" Adam questioned.

"I would have to adopt you too for me to be legally your mom," Rita explained.

"Are you?" Adam questioned.

"Would you like for me to do that?" Rita grinned big.

"Well, yeah," Adam laughed. "What about Perry, Amy, and Haden?"

"They're adults," Darrell said. "Adoption wouldn't be necessary. We'll talk to Steve about it, okay?"

"Yeah, I'd like that," Adam quickly agreed.

"You need to invite Justin to spend the night with you Friday," Darrell said as they drove home. "He doesn't know it, but Paul, Steve, and I are pitching in and paying the adoption fee to get him a horse. And we decided to get him a new saddle rather than a used one. Grant's going to pay Jeff to break and train the horse."

"Yay," Adam smiled.

Justin was extremely excited when he learned he was getting a horse. Darrell, Paul, Haden, Justin, and Adam drove to Wilson Saturday morning to the adoption location. Jeff was meeting them there with his horse trailer to haul the selection back to the Harrington's. Grant had managed to get the day off work and was riding with Jeff.

"Which one do you like?" Darrell asked, as they looked over the herd.

"I like that one," Justin said, as he pointed out a Palomino gelding.

"That's the one I'd choose, "Adam quickly agreed. "He's as pretty as Dusty.

"Kyle has already filled out the adoption form online," Darrell explained. "All we have to do is pay the adoption fee."

"You don't know how much we appreciate you doing this for Justin," Grant said. "There's no way we could afford it ourselves, right now. However, we're about to get caught back up, now that's Betty's working fulltime."

"We're happy to do it for him," Paul said. "I'm just glad you didn't have to work and could be here today."

"This horse is worth a lot more than $125," Jeff said, after unloading the horse as Justin beamed. "We need to keep him in the corral; I'll come out after work and work with him. He isn't nearly as wild as many I've tamed."

"How long will it be before I can ride him?" Justin wanted to know.

"That's difficult to say," Jeff admitted. "Every horse is different. He seems to have a good temperament, though."

"All of you stay out of that corral until Jeff says it's safe to be around him," Darrell cautioned.

"But, Dad, how will we feed and water him?" Adam questioned.

"You're not going to be doing that," Darrell cautioned. "Haden or I'll do it for now."

"I can do it the days I work with him," Paul offered.

"He wants to be with the other horses," Adam said.

"Yeah, but he needs to be corralled until I get him tamed," Jeff explained. "Justin, what are you going to name him?"

"You should name him Trigger," Adam quickly suggested.

"Adam, he's Justin's horse," Darrell said. "Let him select the name."

"Well, Trigger's a good name, but my pretend horse when I was little was Scout," Justin said.

"Yeah, that's even a better name," Adam admitted.

"I'll use that name while I'm working with him," Jeff offered. "Since this is my day off, I'll start working with him now."

"Yeah, start now," Justin agreed.

"Do you have a saddle I can use, once I get him broke to lead?" Jeff asked.

"I'll show you," Adam quickly offered. "Come on, Justin."

"Jeff, we'll get a key made for the tack room for you," Darrell said as he unlocked the tack room.

"That one's Justin's," Adam said, pointing out the new saddle.

"BUT I don't have one yet," a confused Justin said.

"Yeah you do, right, Dad?" Adam beamed. "And I told you I could keep a secret."

"Yes," Darrell agreed. "Justin, we decided you deserved a new saddle. So, some friends, who agreed that you're a good kid, pitched in and got it for you."

Tears flowed without shame as Justin hugged his dad, who also had tears.

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