Castle Roland

Dreams Don't Grow On Trees

by Owen Hudson

In Progres

Chapter 31

Posted: 23 Jul 15

Dreams Don't Grow on Trees

Copyright © 2011 - 2014 Owen Hudson

Needless to say, Adam was excited to be home from his vacation. He had fully enjoyed seeing his uncle George and the sites, especially Yellowstone National Park. But he'd missed his siblings and his pets. He was happy to see the plane land at the Covington Airport, and even happier when Paul dropped them off at their house.

Adam told all about the vacation during most of the dinner time. "Yellowstone was awesome," he said. "I got some great pictures of Old Fateful, and I even got pictures of bears. We saw all kinds of animals."

"What did you kids do while we were gone?" Rita asked when Adam finished recounting his vacation.

"We helped Perry and Lacey move," Amy said.

"They moved? Where did they move to?" Rita asked in surprise.

"Rock Creek - close to her school," Amy said.

"I thought they were staying in their apartment until they could buy," Darrell said.

"They found a place that was for sale, and rented it until their loan is approved," Haden said. "Oh, and there's five acres. Perry plans to move the horses there as soon as he can get a barn."

"Why's he doing that?" Adam immediately asked.

"He probably wants to ride without driving all the way here," Darrell said.

"But then he couldn't ride with us," Adam argued.

"Well, Ray's found a used horse trailer that he bought," Haden said. "It needs some work, but Ray's going to help him fix it up. The owner was asking $750, but Perry got it for $575."

"You should've seen these guys at the round up," Amy said with a giggle.

"What round up?" Adam asked.

"We all got together and helped Ray separate the calves from the cows for weaning," Haden explained.

"Man, I wish he had waited," Adam said. "I'd love to do that."

"Son, he can't run his cattle operation based on your schedule," Darrell said, as he patted Adam's shoulder.

"Well, this fall we can help round up the cows," Haden said. "He'll decide which ones he wants to keep, and send the older ones to market."

"When?" Adam immediately asked.

"He didn't say an exact date," Haden said. "He'll let us know when he's ready. He used to pay a couple of guys to help."

"Cool, I can make some money," Adam declared.

"Adam, would you really want to charge Ray?" Darrell asked. "Remember, he doesn't charge us to ride and camp on his land."

"Oh yeah," Adam agreed. "It'll be fun anyway."

"We're riding out to the camp area and camping out over Labor Day Weekend," Haden said.

"Wow, that'll be fun!" Adam exclaimed.

"Rita and I were planning a big gathering here Labor Day," Darrell said.

"Maybe we could do both," Haden suggested.

"Yeah, Dad, couldn't we do both?" Adam asked.

"I suppose we could camp out until Sunday," Darrell said.

"Honey, we've already missed church the last couple of Sundays," Rita pointed out.

"I don't think missing one more Sunday will hurt," Darrell said.

"Well, Amy and I'll probably go," Rita remarked.

"Mom, aren't you going camping too?" Adam asked.

"No, Son, this one is a man's thing," Rita said.

"Mom, would you mind if Uncle Scott rode Apache?" Haden asked.

"I wouldn't mind at all?" Rita said.

"Who would Ethan ride?" Adam asked with concern.

"I'll ask Jeff about bringing one for him," Haden said.

"Don't you think Uncle Carl and Wade would get their feelings hurt, if they weren't invited?" Amy asked.

"Yeah, I guess you're right," Haden admitted. "Hey, Mom, do you think Betty and Linda would lend us their horses?"

"I'm sure they would," Rita said. "I'll call and ask. Maybe we ladies can plan a 'girls' day out."

"I'll ask Nicole to join us since Jeff will be going," Amy said. "I wonder if Grandma would baby sit Dustin, so Lacey could join us."

"Amy, don't you think your grandma might enjoy a day out too?" Rita asked.

"You're right, I'm sure she would," Amy admitted. "But then Lacey may not get to join us."

"Ask her anyway, maybe she can ask her neighbor Rachel to baby sit," Haden suggested.

"Haden, that's an excellent idea," Rita said.

"Why don't we ask Grandpa to go camping with us too, then?" Adam asked. "He can ride his mule."

"He might prefer to ride his horse Jasper," Darrell pointed out.

"How would he get Jasper here?" Adam asked.

"Your grandpa is resourceful," Darrell said. "I'm sure he'll know someone with a horse trailer."

"Maybe Perry will have his ready by then," Haden pointed out.

"Excuse me," Adam said, and left the room.

"By the way, Dad, Perry's going to need a small barn once their loan's approved and the place is officially theirs," Haden said.

"Darrell, we still have money left from the sale of my house," Rita said. "Let's pay for one for them."

"We have pole barn kits we sell for less than $2,000.00," Darrell said. "Of course, that isn't my cost. They're small, but large enough for a tack room, feed room, and shelter for the horses. There's room for hay storage too. We could have an old-fashioned barn raising and put it up for him."

"Honey, that's a great idea," Rita said.

"Perry has been working on the trailer," Adam returned to the room to say. "He said Mr. Reed already fixed the tailgate, but he still has to finish putting a new floor in it. He'll be happy to haul Jasper for Grandpa."

"I'll call him tomorrow and find out how much material he needs for the floor," Darrell said.

"Oh, he went by the store and got that already," Adam said. "Dad, he said Betty sold it at cost, was that okay?"

"Of course, it was," Darrell said.

"We should have a picnic and plan the campout," Haden suggested.

"Yeah, could we?" Adam asked.

"Sure we can," Rita said. "We may as well take advantage of these nice days before winter."

"I'll call everyone in the morning," Amy offered.

The friends and family were excited about the late summer cookout. The numbers attending seemed to be growing with each cookout. Lacey invited her neighbor Rachel to attend ... regardless of the age difference, the two were becoming friends. Rachel adored Dustin and saw him practically every day.

"Oh my, what a lovely place," Rachel said, when she saw the Harrington home. "What a beautiful picnic area this is too. I've seen parks that weren't nearly this beautiful."

"Rachel, I didn't know you knew my grandson and his family," Grace said when she saw Rachel.

"They're my neighbors now," Rachel said. "Grace, I haven't seen you in church for some time now."

"I go to my daughter's church now," Grace said, without mentioning the reason.

"Oh, was there a reason you left our church?" Rachel asked.

"As a matter of fact, there was," Grace admitted. "The preacher said I would go to hell for attending the Episcopal Church with my son-in-law and his family."

"Our church attendance has dropped off since he became the pastor," Rachel said.

"Well, I'm not surprised," Grace said with a sense of disdain.

"May, I ask what church you attend now?" Rachel asked.

"Saint Paul Methodist."

"I grew up in the Methodist Church, but started attending my husband's church when we married."

"Join us some Sunday."

"You know, I think I will."

"I'll be looking for you. Oh, a bunch of us are going out shopping, a movie, and dinner while the men are camping out. Why don't you join us?"

"I'd love to, but when Lacey mentioned getting her babysitter to watch Dustin, I volunteered. Isn't he the sweetest baby you've ever seen?"

"Oh, he is. He's our first great-grand child."

"Rachel, if you want to go; I'll ask my regular babysitter to watch him," Lacey said.

"Alright, but only if you'll let me watch him some other time," Rachel said.

"Oh, I'm sure there'll be other times that I'll need a sitter," Lacey said.

"You know, with as many of us getting together, we probably should have reservations for dinner," Amy pointed out.

"You're right," Julie agreed. "Would you like me to take care of that?"

"That'd be great," Rita said.

"Hey, can we talk about our campout now?" Adam chimed in.

"Yeah, and I'm going too," Wade said.

"Hold on, we need to talk about this," Julie said.

"Mom, I know how to ride," Wade argued. "Remember, I rode Adam's horse the other day."

"So, that's why my stirrups didn't fit," Adam said with a big grin. "Haden said it's because I'd grown."

"You believed me," Haden said.

"I did not," Adam said. "But I couldn't figure out what was going on, though."

"See, you don't even have a horse," Julie argued. "Adam will be riding his horse. Anyway, your dad would have to go, and he doesn't have a horse either. Plus, Adam's two years older than you."

"Jarred's my age and he's going," Wade argued.

"Linda and I aren't going, so they can ride our horses," Betty said.

"Mine's available too," Debbie announced.

"You ladies aren't helping any," Julie said with a chuckle. "Alright, I suppose you can go. I never feel comfortable about this, but your dad said I need to let you be a boy."

"This is going to be so much fun!" Wade yelled in excitement.

"Tony, you may as well go with us since Amy will be busy," Kyle said. "You could ride your mom's horse."

"I'm not into horses," Tony said. "I'll find something to do."

"He's been afraid of horses since he fell off one and broke his wrist when he was four," Debbie pointed out.

"Thanks for sharing that, Mom," Tony said.

"Tony, what happened, did you fall off the Walmart horse?" Adam asked, as he rushed to get out of Tony's reach.

"Be nice now," Rita said with a smile.

"Oh, that's alright," Tony said. "Just for that, I'll go ... and he'll have to watch his back."

"I'm shaking," Adam countered.

"Jeff, do you have enough pack horses to take all the supplies out there?" Haden asked.

"Why use pack horses?" Ray asked. "I'll load the supplies on my truck and haul them out for you the morning of your campout. I'll just leave the truck there with your supplies on it."

"We've never driven out there, because we didn't want to drive on your pasture," Darrell said.

"You're not going to do any damage to my pasture," Ray said.

"Aren't you camping with us?" Adam asked.

"I hadn't thought about it," Ray admitted.

"You may as well go," Lois said. "I'm going out with the ladies."

"Alright, you twisted my arm," Ray said, with his belly laugh.

"If you're leaving your truck there, how will you get back to ride your horse with us?" Adam questioned.

"I'll load my ATV on the trailer and ride it back to get my horse," Ray explained.

"Jeff and I'll go to Covington and buy some camping food," Darrell said. "Since Ray's hauling our stuff out there, we can take ice chests this time."

"I'll bring some ground beef for hamburgers for the first evening," Ray offered. "I have ground beef in the freezer that needs to be used."

"Do you realize how much ground beef that'll be?" Steve asked.

"I wouldn't offer it, if I didn't have it," Ray said with a grin.

"We need to remember to take the portable electric corrals," Jeff said.

"Will they be large enough with as many horses as we'll have this time?" Haden questioned.

"My corral from the roundup is still out there," Ray said. "That should be enough space."

Plans were finalized, and Jeff made sure every camper would have a horse to ride. It was determined that a couple more tents would be needed. Carl and Scott agreed to purchase them, as they had boys who would be using them in the future.

There were some very excited boys when the day arrived for the horseback ride out to the camp site. Ray had already delivered the supplies and returned with his horse. Adam rushed out to greet his brother and grandpa when they arrived with Jasper. Perry's trailer looked amazingly good after some hard work - he'd even painted it.

The excited boys chattered all the way to the camp site. Although Tony had been nervous about riding again, he too began to relax and enjoy himself.

"We're almost there," Adam said as the group rode.

"I know," Wade said. "Haden showed me where it is, and we also came to help Mr. Reed with his cows."

Although Adam was envious, he managed to not show it. "Man, I bet that was fun," he said.

"It was," Jarred quickly agreed.

It didn't take long to tether the horses and pitch the tents. Firewood was gathered, and a pit was dug for toilet sanitation. Sleeping assignments were also decided.

The younger boys began to complain of hunger pains as soon as the camp was ready for use. "You boys are in luck," Ray said. "Lois made a passel of sandwiches for us."

After satisfying their hunger, the younger boys begged to be taken on a horseback ride. Ray quickly agreed to take them for a ride.

"I'll go too," Walter offered.

Soon, all of the group were mounted and ready for the ride.

"Are we going up Sutton Mountain?" Adam asked.

"Dad said we'd go up there tomorrow," Perry said.

"Where're we going, then?"

"I don't know, you'll have to ask Ray."

"Mr. Reed, where're we going?" Adam asked, after riding up beside Ray.

"You'll see soon," Ray said. "Adam, you know you don't have to call me mister."

"Okay," Adam said, then after thinking for a minute asked, "Could I call you Uncle Ray?"

"I'd like that very much," Ray quickly agreed.

As the group rode, Walter began to sing, and soon Ray joined in.

On top of Old Smokey
All covered with snow,
I lost my true lover
For courting too slow.

Now, courting is a pleasure
And parting is grief,
And a false-hearted lover
Is worse than a thief.

A thief will just rob you
And take what you have,
But a false-hearted lover
Will lead you to the grave.

And the grave will decay you
And turn you to dust;
Not one girl in a hundred
A poor boy can trust.

They'll hug you and kiss you
And tell you more lies
Than the crossties on the railroad
Or stars in the sky.

So, come all you young maidens
And listen to me,
Never place your affection
On a green willow tree.

For the leaves they will wither,
And the roots they will die,
You'll all be forsaken
And never know why.

On top of Old Smokey
All covered with snow,
I lost my true lover
For courting too slow.

"Now you boys join in," Walter said.

"Grandpa, we don't know the words," Ethan said.

"Ray and I'll sing a verse, then repeat it with you guys joining in," Walter said.

The boys joined in the singing, with most off key, but they were having fun.

"This is what I want to show you," Ray said, when they arrived at the remains of a log house. "My great-grandparents built this when they settled in this area."

"It's beautiful here," Kyle said.

"It sure is," Haden agreed.

"Tie your horses to a bush and come with me," Ray said.

"Where're we going?" Wade asked.

"To this," Ray said, as he pointed to a large spring with clear flowing water. "My family built here, because it had a good supply of water. This is the source of water for the lake where we're camped out."

"This is a big spring," Walter observed.

"It is, and the water's good too," Ray said, as he cupped his hands and dipped a handful of the cool clear water and drank it. "Man, that tastes good."

"We can drink it without adding those purification tablets?" Adam asked.

"Yes, it's good pure water," Ray explained.

"Why didn't you guys camp out here?" Tony asked.

"I didn't know this place was here," Haden admitted. "Besides, I'm not sure it would be okay."

"You're always welcome to camp here," Ray said. "The same rules would apply about litter and such."

"We'd have plenty of fresh drinking water too," Jeff said.

"Guys, we need to head back to camp, so I can start cooking the hamburgers," Ray said.

"Yeah, Uncle Ray, I'm hungry," Adam said.

"News flash ... Adam's hungry," Perry said, as the others laughed.

"Well, I bet everyone else is too," Adam countered.

"Adam, I admit that I'm hungry too," Walter said.

Lois had sent potato salad and baked beans to go with the hamburgers. For dessert, she'd sent homemade brownies. The hungry boys were lined up with plates in hand as soon as the hamburgers were ready.

"Thank you, Uncle Ray," Adam said, after enjoying his meal. "It was good."

"Yeah, thank you, Uncle Ray," Wade agreed.

"I think we all enjoyed it," Walter said.

"Ray, I'm thankful that you thought to bring water," Darrell said. "We'll have to remember to do that the next time we camp."

"Not if we camp at the spring," Adam pointed out.

"I guess you're right," Darrell agreed.

Although it was still warm, a campfire set the mood for the group to sit around the fire for an evening of storytelling. The adults had already decided that Wade and Jarred were too young for ghost stories. The youngsters, as well as the older guys, seemed to really enjoy Walter's stories of his youth; especially, of how he attended a one-room school through his eighth grade. "Grandpa, did you ride your horse to school," Wade asked.

"No, we walked to school," Walter said. "It was three miles and uphill both ways."

"Really?" Wade asked.

"Wade, Grandpa's pulling your leg," Adam said with a giggle.

"Well, I didn't feel it," Wade said, as all burst into laughter.

"With that, I think we need to get you boys to bed," Darrell said. "Remember, we're riding up Sutton Mountain in the morning right after breakfast."

"What's for breakfast?" Adam wanted to know.

"Pancakes and sausage," Darrell said. "Why, are you worrying about breakfast already? You had a big meal and just now had popcorn."

"Well, you're always saying I'm a growing boy," Adam said.

The tent assigned to the young boys was filled with giggles, until Darrell yelled, "You boys go to sleep." The giggling ended, only to be replaced by some whispering; then finally, only the sounds of crickets and an owl in the tall oak tree out past the corralled horses.

"Adam, Adam, I gotta pee," Jarred called out early the next morning.

"Well, go on," Adam said in a sleepy and somewhat irritated voice.

"No, you said there are bears out there," Jarred said.

"I didn't say that," Adam argued.

"Yeah, you did too," Wade said. "And I gotta pee too."

"Come on and I'll take you," Haden stuck his head in the boys' tent to say.

Soon the tent emptied as the boys followed Haden to the edge of the camp for their morning pee.

By the time the boys had finished their morning pee; the men were up and beginning the preparations for breakfast. Two propane camp stoves were put to use for brewing a big pot of coffee, as well as cooking the sausage and pancakes. Darrell assumed the duty of cooking the pancakes while Perry cooked the sausage. Tony filled several cups with orange juice only to see it quickly consumed.

The young boys consumed the pancakes as fast as Darrell could cook them. When the boys were finally satiated, the men had their fill.

"Okay, boys, let's dispose of our plates and cups," Cody said, when breakfast was finished.

"Where do we put them?" Ethan asked.

"We burn them," Cody said. "Be careful and don't get too near the fire, though."

The boys were having fun tossing their disposable plates and cutlery into the fire. They even began grabbing items from the hands of the adults almost before they were finished eating. Once the camp site was cleaned, and the horses saddled, the boys were anxious to be on their way.

"Hey, Dad, did we bring lunch?" Adam asked, as they began the ride.

"Adam, you just had breakfast," Darrell said with a big grin.

"I know, Dad ... I'm just thinking ahead."

"You'll not go hungry. We have the individual packets of tuna or chicken salad for sandwiches the same as we did last time. Jeff also brought your favorite snack, apple slices and peanut butter."

"Cool," Adam said, before riding to catch up with the other boys.

"Is he always worrying about food?" Walter asked.

"I think it's because he never had enough to eat before he came into our family," Haden explained.

"That makes sense," Walter said. "I grew up poor; but my parents were hard working, and saw that we always had food on the table. We grew most of what we ate. People who say all poor people have to do is work, are full of shit. Yeah, there're people like Adam's mom, but that doesn't mean kids like Adam should go hungry."

"I never heard how you happened to adopt him," Ray, who was listening, said.

"His mom and one of her many boyfriends were squatters in that old house over by our place," Darrell said. "He wandered onto our place hungry and cold after they left him there alone. Haden took him inside and fed him. Then Haden called me at work, and I contacted Rita about him. Rita pulled some strings, and I was able to foster him before adopting him. He's had his mischievous times, but he really is a good kid."

"He's lucky to have found you," Carl said.

"I think we're the lucky ones," Darrell said. "He came into our family at a time when we needed him almost as much as he needed us."

"I know what it's like to be lucky to find a loving family," Mark said. "Cody and I were lucky to be adopted by a good family."

"Why are they stopping up there?" Paul asked.

"I bet Adam talked Jeff into stopping for his snack," Haden said with a laugh.

"It wasn't me this time," Adam, who overheard the statement, said.

"Well, I was hungry," Jarred said.

"That's my boy," Steve said, amid a big laugh.

"Well, I was hungry too," Wade came to the defense of his friend.

"I imagine we could all go for a snack," Walter said.

"Jeff, did you remember to bring something to spread the peanut butter on the apples with?" Adam asked.

"You were supposed to bring it," Jeff teased.

"Hey, nobody told me," Adam contended.

"I'm just kidding you," Jeff said, as he opened the jar of peanut butter, stuck a plastic knife in the center, and handed it to Adam.

"Jarred's the one who said he's hungry," Adam said, passing the jar on to Jarred, and getting an approving smile from his dad.

Soon, all of the apple slices were consumed, and the group was ready to mount and continue the ride. Haden smiled when he saw Wade sneak an apple slice to his mount.

"Wow, what a view from up here," Scott said, when they arrived at their destination.

"Uncle Scott, that's our house down there," Adam pointed out.

"Yeah, I can see that now," Scott said.

"And that's our house next to Adam's," Justin pointed out.

Although not sure what he was seeing, Jarred said, "And that's our house next to Justin's."

"I got our place after seeing it from up here," Grant said.

"Okay, who's hungry?" Darrell asked.

"I am, I am," a choir of young boys yelled.

The boys didn't seem to care if they got tuna salad or chicken salad for their sandwich, as they were quickly scarfed down. There were also individual packets of baby carrots, and cookies for dessert. There were also juice boxes to wash it all down.

As the group rode down toward camp, Walter broke into another song:

I am an old man some sixty years old
And that you can plain-li see,
But when I was a young man ten years old
They made a stable boy of me.

I have seen the fastest horses
That made the fastest time,
But I never saw one in all my life
Like that old gray mule of mine.

On a Sunday morn I dress myself,
A-goin' out to ride;
Now, my old mule is as gray as a bird,
Then he is full of his pride.

He never runs away with you,
Never cuts up any shine;
For the only friend I have on earth
Is this old gray mule of mine.

Now my old gray mule is dead and gone,
Gone to join the heavenly band,
With silver shoes upon his feet
To dance on the golden strand.

Nobody joined in on the song, since Walter was the only one who knew the words. And no one minded, since he actually had a good singing voice.

"Come on, guys, join in," Walter said.

"Walter, I may have heard that as a boy, but even I don't know the words," Ray admitted.

"Alright, I'll sing a verse, then we'll all sing it together," Walter said.

Most of the boys and adults joined in - with most missing the words to the song, but mumbling through it anyway.

"Grandpa, was that song about your mule?" Wade asked, as the riders rode into camp.

"No, Wade, my mule is still alive," Walter said.

"And he isn't gray either," Ethan added.

After taking the horses to water and tethering them so they could graze, Ethan picked up a fruit from an Osage orange tree and tossed it to Adam. Soon a game of catch began, and evolved into a ball game when Justin picked up a stick and began to bat the improvised ball. After several 'balls' burst and the 'bat' broke, it became a football game.

The game quickly ended when it was announced that dinner was ready. "Did you boys wash your hands?" Steve asked when the boys began to line up for dinner.

"But, Dad, we're camping out," Jarred argued.

"We still need to be clean," Steve countered.

The boys, as well as the adults, seemed to enjoy the freeze-dried beef stroganoff served with freeze-dried green beans. And to the surprise of the first time campers ... there was freeze-dried ice cream.

"I would never have believed there was such a thing as freeze-dried ice cream, if I hadn't sampled it myself," Walter admitted. "It's pretty good."

"Yeah, Grandpa, it's really good," Wade agreed.

"Dad, could I have a horse?" Ethan asked, after the camp was cleaned up.

"I want one too," Wade chimed in.

"Son, we don't have a place for a horse," Scott argued.

"You have 20 acres," Walter said. "All you have to do is fence it and put up a barn."

"I have 20 acres of brush," Scott contended.

"I have a solution for that," Walter proposed. "Fence it and put some goats in. Goats are the best control for weeds and brush there is."

"We'd still need a barn," Scott said.

"We have barn kits for $2,000, but you can have it at my cost," Darrell offered.

"I'd still have to build a fence and put up the barn," Scott argued.

"We're family," Perry said. "We'll get together and help."

"See, Dad, we can both get a horse," Ethan said.

"Where do you propose we get these horses?" Scott asked.

"Adam said Jeff has lots of horses," Ethan said.

"I do have several rescue horses you can have for my cost," Jeff offered. "They should be recovered enough to move in two or three weeks. They're pretty well recovered now, but I still need to make sure they're gentle broke."

"What's a rescue horse?" Ethan wanted to know.

"These were starving, because the owner wasn't feeding them," Jeff explained. "The county removed them and put them in my care."

"I want one," Wade said. "Dad, could I have one."

"Son, we don't have enough land for horses," Carl argued.

"You're not getting off that easy," Scott interjected. "You live less than a quarter mile from me, and I have 20 acres."

"And who's going to talk your sister into this?" Carl questioned.

"Leave it to me," Walter offered. "Get the fencing material, and we'll start next weekend."

"I wonder how much fencing material I'll need." Scott said.

"I can figure the amount for you," Jeff offered. "Did you say 20 acres?"

"Yeah, 20 acres," Scott said.

"Son, it's already fenced on two sides," Walter pointed out. "All you have to fence is the front and back, and that's the narrow parts."

"That'll save a lot of money," Jeff said. "Darrell, will the smaller pole barn be large enough for four horses?"

"Probably not," Darrell said. "The next size up would be about right."

"I'll pay the difference," Carl offered. "I'll also pay half the cost of the fence."

"The fencing material is at my cost too," Darrell offered. "Jeff, why don't you drive over there Tuesday and determine how much fencing will be needed."

"Sure," Jeff agreed. "Actually, I could go Monday before our Labor Day cookout."

"Come spring, my neighbor would be happy to put some goats in your pasture to take care of that brush," Walter said.

"I'll bring my brush hog and knock that brush down for you in the meantime," Ray offered.

"I'll be happy to pay you for that," Scott offered.

"Nah, just pay for the fuel," Ray said. "Scott, I think I'd take the offer of the goats to keep the weeds and brush down, if I were you."

"Then it's settled, next weekend we start building fence," Darrell said.

"Yay, we're getting horses," Ethan said, as he high fived Wade.

It was a very large gathering for the Labor Day picnic. In addition to the regulars, there were Hal and David, Mr. and Mrs. Burgess, Rachel, Father and Mrs. Jensen, and their eight year old grand-daughter Courtney. The swimming hole was soon filled with swimmers of all ages.

"I'm glad you brought Courtney, now Hanna will have a girl her age to play with," Rita said. "It's always just been Hanna and all these boys before."

"Aunt Julie, what do you think about Wade getting a horse?" Haden asked.

"I'm not entirely happy about it, but I knew eventually, it'd come up," Julie said. "Dad said the chances of Wade getting hurt on the playground were probably as much or more than getting hurt from a gentle horse."

"Scott, will you need a water tank?" Darrell asked.

"No, there's a good pond on my property," Scott said.

"I'll knock down that brush first, and that'll make the fence building go faster," Ray said. "What do you say, we gather at Scott's next weekend, build the fence, then get started on the barn?"

"Jeff, why don't you take a crew out and set the poles for the barn?" Darrell said. "It'll ago much faster if the poles are already set."

"Ladies, it looks like we'll be serving a bunch of hungry men and boys next weekend," Lois said.

Adam had mixed feelings about going to school the next day. He'd learned to like school, but he'd miss the freedom of summer ... and his main regret was not getting to ride as much.

When Haden arrived at Adam's school to pick him, Justin, and Jarred up, Adam was in a heated discussion with another kid. "Kiss my ass, I'm not fighting while at school," Adam said, and walked toward Haden's Explorer.

The kid ran, tackled Adam to the ground, and began punching him. Before Haden could exit his vehicle, the male teacher who was on bus duty, rushed over and pulled the kid off Adam. "What's going on here?" He asked.

"Adam started it," the boy responded, as the teacher was holding him by his collar.

"You're a liar," a pretty young girl stepped forward to say. "Mr. Baker, Jon was picking on Jarred, and Adam told him to leave Jarred alone. Jon challenged Adam to fight. Adam said he wouldn't fight at school, and he, Justin, and Jarred were walking away when Jon ran and tackled Adam."

"Mr. Baker, I have to go now ... my mom's here," Jon said.

"You stay right here," Mr. Baker said. "Thank you, Bailey. I'm calling Mr. Knight and letting him handle this."

"There he comes," Bailey said.

"What's going on?" Mr. Knight, the principal, asked.

Mr. Baker explained what was going on, and returned to his bus duty. Jon's mom arrived in an agitated mood and said, "Jon, didn't you see me? Come on, I have things to do."

"Mrs. Young, Jon can't go right now," Mr. Knight said. "He's in trouble for fighting and bullying."

"What did I tell you about getting into trouble at school?" Mrs. Young asked, and slapped Jon hard across the face.

"He probably learned it from you," Haden said without thinking.

Mr. Knight smiled and said, "Mrs. Young, I need for you and Jon to come with me to my office. Adam, you may go."

"Am I in trouble?" Adam asked on the drive home.

"Of course not," Haden assured him. "You boys can have some fruit for a snack while I finish dinner."

"Adam, I'm very proud of you," Rita said, when she arrived home from work.

"I'm not in trouble?" Adam asked.

"No, Son, you're not in trouble," Rita said. "You did the right thing."

"How did you find out so fast?" Haden asked.

"Mr. Knight called me to report a possible abusive situation," Rita said. "When I found out the details, and realized it involved Adam, I transferred the case to a worker in Covington."

"Mom, Jon's mom slapped him hard right in the face," Haden said.

"Yes, that's what I was told," Rita said.

"Is it safe for him at home?" Haden asked.

"He's going into foster care until the case is resolved," Rita said.

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