Bonds of Brotherhood

by Hunter Woods

Chapter 20

The following week just seemed to fly by us with abandon. We spent a lot of time with the Cuconato brothers, and it seemed like we were one large extended family. The three younger boys seemed to hit it off well as Marco introduced them to some of the other kids in the neighborhood. I could tell though that these three would become such close friends just like me, Brendan, and Ezra were when together. We mostly hung around our house, but when Brendan's and Marco's dad came home from work there were times we would head over there for some dinner and video games.

The only real tough day was Wednesday when the Kostalini boy's had their grandfather's funeral ceremony. Just about everyone in the local tribal community was present as they viewed the boy's grandfather for the last time. Many had cut their hair in mourning to show their respect for their revered Elder, and placed it inside the coffin. The boys' grandfather had requested to be cremated, and his ashes spread on their sacred ground. This meant everyone who had sheered off their hair in honor of Mr. Kostalini would also be spread out with his ashes on sacred ground. Although the boys being immediate family members would have to keep their hair cut short for an entire year, the other members of the tribe who had cut their hair could once more allow it to grow back without having to wait. It was a sad day, but the boys held up very well as some tribal members also came up to us, and thanked my parents for doing such a fine job with the boys in light of this tragedy.

At one point several of the Elders took aside my parents for a few moments to discuss the upcoming naming ceremony, and my mom suggested it be held at Mr. Kostalini's mountain. My father further explained they understood it was a long drive for many of them, but the boys had expressed an interest in having the ceremony there so they could also go up to the sacred grounds and spread their grandfather's ashes. Several of the Elders had just looked at one another discussing it in their own language briefly, and my parents thought that maybe they had somehow offended them by having it so far away. He apologized letting them know if there was a better option that of course we would take it into consideration and discuss it with the boys.

One of the Elders had just shook his head and smiled at my parents telling them they thought this would be a good idea. Mr. Kostalini had often invited the tribal community on the property for ceremonial purposes, and that this was a fitting way to honor their late spiritual leader. They were willing to make the journey for Mr. Kostalini and his grandsons. In addition, afterwards there would be a feast and some competitive games that the late Elder had enjoyed while he was alive. In this way the community would honor the memory of a great man who contributed so much to the tribe during his lifetime.

The rest of the funeral service went by without anything else significant occurring as the boys made sure to speak to everyone who had come on their grandfather's behalf. The rest of the week seemed to fly by without any other incidents until it was time to go on Saturday morning. Loading up the plane we flew the hour or so over towards the mountain in the gray early morning light. Tyler and Zachary had been a bundle of energy full of curiosity as they excitedly chatted over the loud thunderous droning noise of the Pratt & Whitney radial 450 hp engine into their headsets while we flew. The loud roaring noise and rattling of the plane alone was enough to have the boys looking back and forth between their seats hardly able to contain their excitement.

This was the best thing ever they had exclaimed, while their older cousin tried to tell them about some of the functions of flying. Ezra and I would take turns flying today, and since the landing was a bit tricky by the mountain I took to piloting us over first. Since I now had my Pilot Certification I was able to fly the plane on my own without any certified instructor. However, since I was still too young to fly completely solo, I still needed someone on board that was a regular certified pilot. So technically, even though I had my certification, because of my age I still had to be chaperoned if I wanted to fly. This would change once I turned sixteen years old and could fly completely alone without a qualified pilot on board. Despite being certified the landing still had me a bit worried since it would be my first one on rough terrain. My father had expressed his confidence with my skills, and pointed out that he would be there just in case I needed help. In the end I had to admit that this was the best learning scenario for me.

In the end my worries were short lived because the landing went off without a hitch. After setting down on the short runway, we stored the plane in an out of the way place, and began the process of setting everything up to welcome our guests. It was a beautiful day, and the weather forecast predicted it would end up being in the mid sixty degree Fahrenheit range. This was really strange for me to have such warm weather during the winter months. It did cool down a lot at night and in the early morning hours though, dipping down to around forty degrees or so, but still very mild from what I was used to.

By the time we got everything set up several hours later it was getting to be around ten in the morning. People would start arriving in about an hour so the Kostalini boys grabbed their small packs, and said they would be back in a couple of hours after they had finished their grandfather's last request. My parents said they would go with them if they needed the support, but Ezra shook his head saying this is something they needed to do on their own. After giving the boys a hug, and with a look of concern on my mother's face, the boys waved goodbye, and were off down the trail heading towards the canyons.

Around eleven people started to show up, many of them dragging along their horse trailers. Evidently, several people from the community enjoyed bringing their horses out here to get some riding in. Even Two Dogs came dragging along his ornery horse, which of course I had to go say hi to and pat him appreciatively while feeding the beast sliced up apples. He had even brought Tyler's and Zachary's horse stating that the Acoya's were bringing along Ezra's horse along with a couple of their own. After a while I noticed other people watching me closely with Two Dogs horse before one of the older boys ambled over with his horse, a beautiful blanket Appaloosa like Ezra's horse only a bit lighter in coloration.

"Wow, she's really beautiful." I told the boy who looked to be about sixteen or seventeen years old.

"Thank you, but she's been a bit sluggish lately for some reason." He told me then all of a sudden yelped when Two Dog's horse suddenly snapped at the older boy.

"Hey you…" I admonished the horse who just looked at me as if to say 'what.' "What do you mean what? You know perfectly well what, now go over and apologize to um…?" I scolded Two Dogs Paint horse pausing because I didn't know the boy's name while the horse just shook his mane at me.

"My name is Charlie." The boy stated.

"Now you go on over and apologize to Charlie." I continued to scold Two Dog's Paint horse as he just looked at me, and once more shook his mane indignantly. "What do you mean no. If you are going to be rude then go away and leave me alone." I looked at the horse admonishingly motioning him to go away.

The Paint just looked at me, and puffed out air before lowering his head to Charlie so the boy could pat him on the neck. "That's a good boy. Why don't you step back a little for a moment, and I'll slice these up for you." I patted the Paint as he looked at me, and then stepped back giving me a little space, but looked at me keeping a close eye on the apple I was slicing up.

"Wow, so it really is true, I mean you have the gift." The boy smiled at me kind of shocking me with the statement while I just shook my head.

"I don't know why everyone keeps saying that. I mean it's obvious what he's thinking, and all you have to do is let them know you won't put up with their antics. Two Dog's horse needs to learn some manners is all." I responded scowling at the Paint, and giving him a couple of slices of apples promising more in a bit while the other boy just shook his head smiling at me.

"If you say so." The boy replied as he stood next to his Appaloosa and patted her appreciatively watching me as I gave Two Dog's Paint the last slice of apple.

"So, why is everyone bringing all of their horses?" I asked stepping up to get a closer look at the Appaloosa. "Do you mind?" I asked curious about all the horses people were bringing with them, and also looking over Charlie's horse appreciatively after he nodded his head giving me permission.

"Well there are some nice trails around here for people to enjoy a ride with awesome views, but also because of the big race." He told me as he watched me closely with his horse.

"Really, what race is that?" I asked since this new bit of information sounded interesting.

"Oh, sometimes when we come out here there is a big race that many like to compete in. It takes us out into the desert for about a five or six mile round trip. It's a real big deal for many to prove their horses and their riding skill." The boy explained continuing to watch me with his horse. "So why do you think she's been a bit sluggish lately?" He asked catching me by surprise.

"What?" I responded looking over at him inquisitively.

"She's been sluggish lately so I was wondering if you knew why?"

"Not really, I mean I don't know her so I'm not too sure." I told the boy as I patted his horse, and looked closer at her. "So, you've been feeling a bit out of sorts have you?" I asked her not really expecting an answer, but she seemed to respond by nuzzling me. "Do you want to race today girl?" I asked her as I chuckled, but she seemed to just look at me and shake her head.

The boy just gasped in surprise and looked at me. "So you think I probably shouldn't race her?" He asked me seriously.

"I don't know what to say to that, but if she isn't feeling up to it maybe it is just best not to race her. I mean we all have those kinds of days you know. Has anything changed in her routine lately? It could just be something simple you know." I asked him kind of curious now why his horse would be sluggish lately for no apparent reason.

"No not really, well we did change the brand of grain we normally feed her because it was less expensive." He admitted.

"Hmm, maybe she doesn't care for it or maybe it just sort of messed with her diet a bit." I suggested as the boy seemed to nod appreciatively thinking it through while I looked up and noticed another person approaching us.

He was an older man who nodded his greeting to the boy in a language I didn't understand, but sounded familiar to what Ezra and his grandfather spoke. The man was dressed in a white, blue, and yellow print shirt that had geometric designs and beadwork on it giving it a sort of Native American flair. He was also wearing a silver bracelet with turquoise and coral, along with a matching necklace that had large chunks of the blue turquoise and red coral pieces. As I looked around I noticed most everyone was wearing the similar kind of more traditional like clothing and jewelry indicative of the Native American community.

"This is my grandfather Charlie Horse." The older boy smiled at me understanding my reaction as I just couldn't help myself and laughed.

"Oh, I'm sorry. Please tell your grandfather I didn't mean anything by it, but it just sort of caught me by surprise is all." I told the boy trying to put on a serious face as I continued to tremble as small bursts of the giggles kept creeping up to take hold of me.

The older boy laughed too as he translated for his grandfather who also smiled knowingly. "Yes, well he was a prankster when he was younger so the Elders thought it appropriate to name him in this way. On the one hand it honors his prowess on horse back, but on the other hand they thought it a fitting prank for a jokester. So, all is well that ends well." The boy pointed out as his grandfather spoke up.

The elderly man looked at me, and then pointed towards the horse a bit concerned as the older boy nodded his head and spoke to him for a few moments. The old man looked at me and nodded his head approvingly, and then spoke some more handing the boy some sort of bundle. "Grandfather was just wondering about what you had said regarding our horse. He's been very concerned lately, and didn't think it had anything to do with health issues. He hadn't considered the fact that maybe my horse was so fickle with his food, but says it does make sense now. He wishes to thank you because it has been very much a concern for him, and he hasn't been able to sleep properly. He also told me that your advice about not racing my horse in such a long distance competition is also correct, and he had been thinking the same thing." The boy translated for his grandfather as he handed me a bundle of wrapped sage.

"I…um…tell your grandfather the gift wasn't necessary, but I thank him for his thoughtfulness, and I will be sure it is used in the proper fashion to honor his family." I finished off knowing it was important not to insult the elderly man by refusing his gift of thanks.

The boy translated as his grandfather looked at me his eyes getting big for a moment before smiling and patting me on the shoulders, and nodding his head appreciatively as he spoke to his grandson, then turned and walked away leaving us alone. "My grandfather says spoken like a true warrior regarding the gift." The boy told me appreciatively. "He is very impressed with you Jackson, and it takes a lot these days to impress him."

"Um…yeah sure I guess, but I hope this is what is bothering your horse though." I told the boy honestly patting the horse affectionately and admiring her beauty.

"It makes sense Jackson, and so too your advice about not racing her in the long race. So do you want to go out on a ride around the area before the ceremony? I would love it if you joined me so I can show you around a bit." The boy asked me as I just shook my head.

"I don't own a horse." I responded at about the same time Two Dogs approached with my parents in tow. "Hey guys." I greeted them as I introduced Charlie with Two Dogs nodding his head while my mom sidled up to me, and put her arms around my shoulders eyeing the large Appaloosa cautiously.

"Hey Two Dogs, can Jackson take your horse for a ride? I asked him if he would like to go out for a ride with me, but he says he doesn't have a horse." The boy asked Two Dogs who sort of stroked his chin contemplating it.

"Sure I don't see why not. I mean that mangy beast of mine normally doesn't put up with anyone, but I'm sure he won't have a problem with Jackson." Two Dogs admitted giving his approval.

"What…um…I'm not so sure about this?" I told Two Dogs while I felt my mom sort of tense up with the idea of me riding what is supposed to be a cantankerous mean spirited horse. "Besides, you've never even told me his name." I chuckled realizing I've never inquired about the horse's name.

"Oh I just call him ornery beast." Two Dogs shouted at his horse who just seemed to look over at him, and turn his back to the man. "See what I mean." He chuckled.

"Sure, but doesn't he have a proper name?" I asked again as Two Dogs sort of smiled at me conspiratorially.

"Of course…it's Surefoot." He replied. "He's got good feet on him, and hasn't faltered on me yet." He smiled proudly. "But he is ornery, and doesn't seem to ever want to win a race with me even though we are always at the top of the group. It's almost as if he is mocking me." He stated clapping his hand on my shoulder. "Come; let's get a saddle on him so you boys can go out for a ride." He finished off starting to head towards the horse.

"I don't know Two Dogs." My mom interjected. "I know Jackson seems to be able to ride well enough since he rode Tyler's horse, but isn't your horse a bit…well wild?" She asked the Kickapoouian man.

"Yes he is and he doesn't allow anyone else to ride him, so if he allows Jackson on his back I'm sure it will be just fine." He told her motioning for me to call over his Paint.

Surefoot trotted right over when I called to him. "Shall we go out for a ride?" I asked as the horse just sort of looked at me for a moment and nudged my pocket. "Oh, I'm sorry Surefoot. I did promise you more apples didn't I?" I told the Paint shaking my head. "You don't forget a thing do you boy?" I chuckled as I fished out the last apple, and sliced it up for the horse while Two Dogs got the saddle out.

Patting the horse on the neck, and then making sure the saddle was put on tight the way Ezra had taught me, I lightly stepped into the stirrup and climbed up. Surefoot seemed to prance around a bit until I calmed him down.

"We're not going racing boy, just out for a little easy ride so settle down." I told him patting the Paint on the neck.

It really was a pleasant ride, and we took it a bit easy as he showed me one of his particular favorite trails. It wound around the canyon walls hugging it tightly until we came to a flat opening area with a breathtaking view of pristine canyon walls seemingly glittering in reds and yellows all around us. It truly was a marvel, and I could understand why the community loved to bring out their horses for a leisurely ride through the myriad of passageways. The twists and turns left one constantly wondering what awaited them around the next bend, and to be honest I was never disappointed as one viewpoint was exchanged with another, each one completely different yet equally as impressive as the one before it. The easy circuit lasted for about thirty or forty minutes until we rounded a bend and reached a trail crossing with the camp to the left and another flat trail off to the right.

We stopped at the fork for a moment pausing in our conversation before I started to take Surefoot towards the camp when my new friend asked if we should just try racing the horses for a small stretch. I was a bit skeptical, but Surefoot seemed to sense the challenge and started to get a bit antsy. So we agreed to a short race around a big boulder off to the right, and then back again towards a large tree close to the camp. The boy counted down and we were off with Surefoot shooting out like a bullet nearly tossing me out of the saddle. I immediately gained my balance, and never looked back as we rounded the boulder and sped off down the sandy pathway back towards the tree we had set as our finish line in the opposite direction. Several others now had gathered around watching our impromptu race, and were whooping it up when I shot past the tree slowly bringing Surefoot to a slow walk as a few moments later the boy eased his Appaloosa alongside of us smiling and shaking his head.

"Wow, you guys are fast together." He complimented me as we both got down clasping hands while the spectators whooped it up, and clapped their hands at the friendly little competition.

My parents had watched the race as well, and I could tell my mom wasn't too happy. She had literally nearly torn my dad's arm out of its socket watching the race as they now approached me. Two Dogs seemed to sense a confrontation so came to the rescue.

"You're a natural that's for sure, and you bring out the best in horses. You do have the gift." He complimented me as he shook my hands. "So, I hear your twelfth birthday is coming up soon." He stated more than asked as I nodded my head looking over towards my parents who had calmed down a bit since others started to come over so they could shake my hands appreciatively, and then milled around while Two Dogs spoke.

"Um…yeah, I'll be twelve tomorrow." I responded blushing a bit as several people had gathered around now congratulating me on my birthday.

"I see, twelve years old and still horseless. This is not good for a young warrior." Two Dogs stated while several other people nodded in agreement. "I think it is time we do something about this don't you?" He asked catching me and my parents off guard a bit.

"I…um…I don't know Two Dogs. I mean sure it would be nice and all, and I've always seemed to be drawn to horses when they are around, but I've never really thought about owning one." I admitted to him.

"Well then here." He told me handing the reigns to Surefoot over to me making me screw up my eyes questioningly with confusion. "Every boy by the time he reaches his twelfth birthday should know the responsibility of owning a horse. Surefoot seems to like you better anyway, so he is now yours." He told me sincerely as he patted my shoulders.

Before me or my parents could say anything everyone around us where whooping it up, and congratulating me as they tried to get close and lay their hands on both Surefoot and me for luck. This didn't seem to sit so well with Surefoot, but he allowed it since I was holding on to his reins. As the people came up to congratulate me all I could do was reach out and shake their hands. Even a couple of the Elders had ambled over congratulating me before they nodded their approval to Two Dogs.

Once everyone had departed just leaving Two Dogs, a couple of the Elders, my parents, and me all alone I finally was able to speak up. "I…I don't know what to say Two Dogs. I mean this is…very nice…but I'm not sure I can accept this offer. It is a lot for you to sacrifice. I know you make fun of how ornery Surefoot is and all, but I also know how much you love him." I told Two Dogs.

"Yes Mr. Two Dogs, it wouldn't be right for Jackson to accept such a gift." My mom spoke up agreeing with me.

"So you will insult Two Dogs?" One of the Elders spoke up holding up his hand forestalling my mom who just wanted to explain it wasn't meant as an insult. "Mrs. Elborn, I do not think Two Dogs has offered this gift lightly, and I am pretty sure he has given it much thought over the last several days. Mr. Kostalini and Two Dogs have often spoken to us regarding the gift your son has with horses, and it is obvious to all of us now as well. This is a rare gift, and it is something we treasure and honor by nurturing it. Two Dogs is known for owning some of the most prized horses in these parts, so it is an honor to receive one from him. Do not dishonor the man who wishes to show respect for taking in the Kostalini boys. After all are you not also allowing the other boys to keep their horses?" The older man asked my parents who just hesitated a moment having to think about this since it was all happening so fast.

"Sweetie, I don't think letting Jackson have a horse is such a bad idea?" My father told my mom. "After all it looks as if he can handle himself just fine, and I have to admit there is just something about the way horses seem to react around him." My dad pointed out while my mom just looked at me and shook her head.

"Alright, but if you break your neck don't expect me to wipe your backside when you go to the bathroom. I did that often enough when you were a baby, and won't do it now that you are older." She admonished me, but caving in as I rushed over giving her a big hug.

"Thanks mom, and thanks Two Dogs. I'll take real good care of him." I promised giving the man a hug as well while he smiled nodding his head knowingly.

"Of course, I'm sure you will." He told me clapping me on the shoulders as we seperated.

While I cooled down Surefoot some more by walking him with Charlie and his horse, the others started to prepare the ceremony arena because the Kostalini boys would be back soon. I took another look at Charlie's horse to make sure she was alright since we did race a bit. She seemed to have handled the short contest just fine so we found a nice cool spot and let the two horses graze around a little while I watched an elderly man walk around a makeshift arena blessing it with smoldering white sage. I could smell the sweet scent of the herb wafting its way through the air all around the area.

Since Surefoot seemed content for the moment, I headed over towards my parents to lend a helping hand. We ended up putting out plenty of food on the tables to snack on since people were getting hungry. It was decided we might as well start with lunch since some of the older people needed to eat something before they could take their medications. While many of us milled around eating lunch the boys finally showed up and joined us for a bite to eat. They seemed to be in good spirits, and said that it went well up on the mountain. They had performed a small ceremony, and then released their grandfather's ashes to the four sacred directions. At first it had been sad for them, but now that it was done they felt as if it had been the right thing to do.

Shortly after lunch everyone gathered around in a circle while one of the Elders stepped into the center of the ring. "Today we have assembled here together to witness the naming of our brothers. When we are born we are given a regular name, but as we get older and decide it is time to join the circle, then we gather once again and give our brothers or sisters their new name…one that reflects them in this life. Many months back one of our own Elders; Black Bear – Sucki Mawkwa – Kostalini came forward and asked the council if we would accept his grandsons into the circle. Will the Elborn-Kostalini boys please step into the circle?" The Elder asked as he looked towards our family.

We were all lined up with my parents standing behind us as Ezra looked back to my parents, and gave them a hug followed by Tyler and Zachary when the Elder had asked them to step forward. Ezra was standing on my right with Tyler and Zachary on my left side as the boys turned back around, and looked at me. I couldn't help but smile back at them because they really did look pretty snazzy wearing their ribbon shirts that their grandfather had personally made for them.

They were simple long sleeved shirts that pulled over the top of one's head, and had half inch wide strips of silk that was stitched horizontally across the chest, upper back, cuffs, and collar in shades of brown and white. The main area of the shirt had a print design depicting bears in earthly tones of brown, black, white, and grays while the top part of the chest, neck, and collar was just a simple fabric in a solid color of white. There was also several southwest style diamond shaped geometric designs throughout the pattern. On both sides of the chest, and attached to the material were additional silk strands in white and brown that hung downwards loosely like ribbons. The same long ribbons also hung loosely from the shoulders down the arms, and on either side in the back.

Just before the ceremony began some of the women had whisked my mom off to the side and braided her hair entwining some simple feathers along with her Eagle feather. Two Bears had instructed my father to go get the Eagle feathers the boys had given them for Christmas along with their medicine bags. My parents had transformed, and looked really nice wearing their silver bracelets with turquoise and coral on their wrists along with their Eagle feathers. My father held his feather in his right hand while my mother wore hers in her hair.

As for me the boys had surprised me once more by presenting me with my very own ribbon shirt that they had made. It was similar in design to theirs, ribbons and all; except, my print had a pattern design with horses instead of bears. Right in the center of my chest area was a beautiful white horse stretched out at a full gallop with it's mane flowing in the air. How the boys managed to line it all up properly was beyond me, but the shirt was very special to me because my new brothers had the kindness to make me one for their special occasion. I too had my Eagle feather in my right hand, and on my left wrist I wore Two Dogs Bracelet that he gave me, along with the beaded necklace and medicine pouch around my neck that Ezra had given me.

With a nod from Ezra, Tyler hooked my left arm with his right one, while Ezra took my right in his left advancing towards the center circle whisking me along with them. The move kind of surprised me, and I stood in place hesitating a moment, until the boys tugged on my arm forcing me to step forward with them. I had no choice, but to follow my brothers out into the center of the circle to stand in front of the Elder while he just looked at the three Kostalini boys admonishingly.

"What are you doing?" The Elder asked the boys looking at them reproachfully. "We are here to bring you three into the circle. You know we cannot name someone who is not one of us. Besides, no one has stood for them." He finished off while Ezra stepped forward.

"Jackson is my brother, so he has every right to be here with us." He told the man confidently while the Elder shook his head.

"Yes, in the white man's courts you boys have been adopted so I guess you can say he is your brother, but not with our ways." The Elder shook his head sadly.

"So, you would accept him in our tribe if he was brought into our tribe as my brother in our traditional ways?" Ezra asked the Elder who thought for a moment and nodded his head.

"Of course, but this would be a council matter, and would take some time. Maybe if this is what you wish we can do this at a later time, but not today." The man told Ezra.

"Then I must inform you that many months back I performed the Bonding of Brotherhood ceremony with Jackson making him my brother." He told the Elder who seemed surprised.

"No one said anything of this to us. You should have informed a member of the tribe or an Elder." He stated seriously. "You cannot just do this sort of thing, and then not say anything to anyone expecting us to believe you now because you feel it is convenient." He admonished Ezra. "By not saying anything you are showing disrespect to our community, and you should be ashamed of yourself." He continued to berate Ezra and was going to say more, but Tyler jumped in to defend his cousin.

Speaking out in a high toned, but booming voice making sure there would be no doubt to hearing him, he stepped forward and laid into the Elder not in the least bit concerned of the consequences. "You are the one who should be ashamed of yourself by scolding him in front of others. This is no way for an Elder to behave." He told the man in a clear and succinct voice while Ezra tenderly placed his arm around the boy's shoulder, and gently pulled him back into line.

The Elder turned red now and was about to say something when he was once more interrupted. "Do not treat the boy so harshly. We all know you did not have good relations with his grandfather, but Tyler is right and this is no way to treat the boy in front of others. Besides, it is not your right to call into questions the boy's integrity unless you find out all the facts." An ancient looking man spoke up as he stepped forward walking with a staff in his hand for support.

"This is my responsibility here, and I can admonish the boy if I wish, even if you do not approve of it." The first Elder now seemed to get a bit ruffled towards the old man having forgotten for the moment all about Tyler, and I started to get worried now, but Ezra just squeezed my hand reassuringly letting me know there was something more going on here.

It seemed like there was some sort of internal power struggle going on here and somehow Ezra appeared to be involved. It was as if my friend were provoking the situation intentionally. From the corner of my eye I could see my mom was getting ready to step forward and say something, but before she did Two Dogs stepped up next to her whispering something quietly into her ear. She seemed to hesitate, and then nod her head to him in understanding.

"This may be, but I am still a council member, an Elder, and you're Chief so you will show me the respect due my status young man. Do not think that your standing supersedes mine or the collective will of the council." The elderly Chief used his clout, and also referred to the other Elder as young man so that he would have the upper hand putting the other man on precarious ground. "It is true that the Spiritual Advisor among our people has the foremost right to perform this ceremony, but you are not this person yet. The council of Elders has not given this role to you, and we are hesitant to do so. It is the Spiritual Advisor's task to see not only to our people's spiritual needs, but also to advice the council against making rash decisions. This has been the role of the Kostalini family since back to the beginning of our people. Twice in our history the role has gone to a different family, and twice disaster befell our people." The older man now challenged this new Elder who seemed a bit flustered.

"Those are just fabricated stories told to our children to frighten them, and keep them in line while the previous advisors have gotten their way." The Elder tried to puff out his chest indignantly.

"So you now mock our traditions and oral history to the contrary. This is certainly not the role of one who would hold such an esteemed position; especially, since it is the role of our spiritual advisor to teach our people to uphold these traditions for our future generations. If you do not believe in our traditions, what makes you think you are the one to lead our people in this fashion?" The Chief questioned the Elder who now looked around a bit insulted.

"Because the position is mine…I have earned it and waited patiently." The man protested.

"Yes, but have you truly learned anything. This I do not believe is the case, and your lack of judgment and callousness over our ways proves it." The Chief told the other man as he squared off with him while the tribe looked on silently reserving judgment until it was all over.

"Why, because I am brave enough to call a Kostalini a liar." The man stated bluntly while the Chief finally seemed to smile like a panther ready to strike.

Tyler not able to contain himself spoke up again. "Ezra's no liar so you better take that back." He shouted out while I put my arm around him this time so he would calm down. Whatever was going on here was for a purpose, and I didn't want Tyler to put a monkey wrench into things.

There wasn't much to worry about as the Chief once more interjected himself smoothly, and if anything Tyler had caused the first younger Elder to falter a bit and get confused. "So it is now said and done, and in the open for all to hear it from your lips. You accuse Ezra Kostalini, son of Black Bear Kostalini, of lying, a word we don't even have in our own language. You use a word that is abhorrent to our people's ears, and accuse it on a young boy whose family over the generations has proven themselves time and time again." The old man stated loudly for everyone to hear and acknowledge as he now focused on Ezra. "So, Ezra, here we have it. You cannot receive your name as someone who is accused of lying. What do you have to say in defense?" The elderly man posed.

"I say that I am no liar, and the accuser brings shame on my family for even suggesting such a thing is possible. I am forced to challenge him for my family's honor and name. This issue will be resolved today, and because of its gravity, one of us must depart this circle in shame with our family name being dishonored." Ezra stated turning towards the rest of the crowd now so that everyone understood his intentions in this matter.

"Then young Kostalini, present your proof." The younger accusatory Elder now cut in seemingly getting his footing once again as he challenged the boy confidently.

"I have done nothing wrong and I did let someone know the day I performed the ceremony as is our custom." Ezra stated out loudly for everyone to hear while he looked at the reproachful Elder in the eye.

"Well if you told your grandfather then he should have said something to the rest of the Elders in the council." The first Elder admonished Ezra once again smiling smugly.

"Why? He is not bound to do so. As an Elder himself, it was only necessary that the boy's grandfather be told. He was not bound by any of our traditions to disclose this information." The Chief stepped in once more.

"That may be, but now what purpose does it serve because he cannot disprove the lie. At the very least since it cannot be disproved both of us can leave this circle with our family's name intact." The younger Elder retorted loudly and clearly trying to find another way out of this sticky situation for himself.

"It is not Ezra's responsibility to disprove the lie; it is your burden to prove that he is lying." The Chief reminded the Elder who seemed a bit perplexed now as traditions once again got in the way of logic.

"I do not see it that way in this instance since it is Ezra seeking to have someone be named, and has made a foolish claim. It was his responsibility to inform someone so that they could be a witness when the time came, so it is his responsibility." The man stated smugly.

The Chief was going to say something when Ezra spoke up. "It does not matter one way or the other because although I did inform my grandfather, he was not the one I spoke to on the day the ceremony occurred." Ezra told the man point blank, which seemed to shock him because he hesitated before asking the crucial question.

"Then, who was it that can give witness." The young Elder asked while Ezra just smiled knowing he had done what he had set out to do because at that moment Two Dogs stepped forward.

"It was me. I was there that day, and the ceremony was conducted right here on this revered land up on the mountain on our sacred ground." Two Dogs stepped forward to stand behind Ezra bearing witness for the boy.

"Who said he could take an outsider up to our sacred grounds." The Elder shook with fury and hatred looking at me and Ezra with irritation as if bringing me up to the sacred spot had somehow desecrated it.

At this point the Chief had enough and pounced on the accusing Elder like a cougar on unsuspecting prey. "Who are you to say he cannot. Does this mountain not belong to the Kostalini family? Isn't it their family who made the sacrifice over all these years so that our land would be protected? If I am not mistaken it was your great grandfather who spoke out against the tribe contributing to purchase the mountain from the government stating the burden belonged to the Kostalini family, is their responsibility, so they must buy it. Due to your family greed for wealth and power at the time, we almost lost these sacred lands forever because without your great grandfather's vote, along with those who he had forced to vote his way all those many years ago, the tribe was not allowed to help. Thus, you have no right to challenge the boy in this matter. Permission was granted to the Elborn child, and since the Kostalini's are the official owners and caretakers of our sacred mountain, you are here at the kindness of this boy's hospitality, not the other way around. You're family has forfeited the right to have any say with any matter concerning our sacred grounds." The Chief now glowered at the younger Elder forcing him to back down while many of the tribal members nodded their approval towards their Chief's wisdom and logic.

The elderly man now looked over towards the gathered council of Elders, and one by one they nodded their head. "It is done, you have been relieved of your status to conduct this ceremony, and have also been stripped of your rights as the interim Spiritual Advisor for our people. By your own agreement to the challenge you must depart this circle; your family honor is disgraced. You must depart these lands immediately, and the members of Elders will decide your fate at the next council meeting. At that time it will also decide what to do about our next Spiritual Advisor." The Chief spoke up shocking the other man who just looked around confused at how this had all come about so quickly.

"But who will perform the ceremony now?" The man managed to babble out as he continued to look around completely stunned.

"If the Spiritual Advisor is not present it falls to the next senior member of our council of Elders, which would be me. You know that this ceremony doesn't necessarily have to be performed by a Spiritual Advisor. It can be performed by whichever senior member is at the gathering." The Chief pointed out as he stepped forward relieving the man of the Eagle Staff he carried in his hands while several tribal members escorted the man from the circle, and watched to make sure he left these lands for good before we could even begin the ceremony.

"Now that the negative energy has been removed from these grounds, I will use white sage to cleanse the arena once more of any lingering bad energy so that the ceremony may proceed with a light heart amongst our people." The elderly man proclaimed as he lit some sage and slowly circled around the entire gathering before coming back to stand in front of us, and then looking at me as he tried to make some decisions.

"Young Jackson, so you wish to receive a name?" He asked me as I looked over towards Ezra who nodded his head encouragingly at me.

"Yes sir." I replied to him honestly.

"This is most unusual and puts me in a precarious situation. This is something that isn't given out lightly, and there are procedures and courtesies put in place for our people. First someone must stand for you in front of the Elders, and ask on your behalf. Is there anyone here who will stand for you?" He asked me as he looked around, and appeared a bit stunned when Two Dogs stepped up behind me placing his hands on my shoulders.

"I will stand for him and request it on his behalf." Two Dogs spoke up looking around at the assembled people so they could witness his sincerity.

"Why would you stand for this young man? What is he to you? Surely I understand how important he is to the Kostalini boys, but since they do not have their name yet either, how can they stand up for him. How is it then that our council can accept you to stand up for the boy?" The Chief asked sincerely figuring that the bid for the naming ceremony for me would have been removed for the moment and handled at a later time. He wasn't disrespectful about it, but was just following protocol.

"Who better than someone who has gifted his own personal horse to the boy? We have all witnessed the boy's gift, and it was I who noticed it first many months ago. It is also I who bears witness that he is now bonded with Ezra so considered an adopted member of our tribe. I bear as much responsibility for the boy's education in our traditions as Ezra." Two Dogs pointed out.

The Elder looked towards his other council members who nodded their head acknowledging the right of Two Dogs to stand for me as the Chief also nodded agreement. "The council concurs with you Two Dogs, but there is also the issue of tobacco provided to the person who will be conducting the ceremony beforehand by the person receiving the name." He told me gravely as I felt Tyler slip something into my left hand.

"I'm sorry that I didn't come forward sooner to give you this, but this was sort of sprung on me too sir." I told him handing the tobacco over with my left hand while he accepted with his left hand.

"So the gift of our sacred tobacco by the tradition of kicnic-kicnic has been offered as a gift being handed from left hand, and accepted with my left hand signifying heart to heart." The Elder nodded his head approvingly.

Looking towards the Kostalini boys he now asked, "Who have you boys chosen as your guides that will serve as witnesses, and have authority along with me the presiding Elder to take away the new name if the person ever dishonors it, as well as the power to once again restore it? Since you are all related and receiving your name at the same time we will allow you to have the same guides if you so choose." He stated as I watched four people I've never met before approaching the center of the circle each wearing a different color that represented the four directions.

The Elder nodded his head in approval. "It is tradition that you boys have given them tobacco from left hand to left hand when you first asked them to be your guides. Has this happened?" The Chief asked the boys and guides who all nodded their heads. "Good, it is also tradition that you now offer your guides a gift hand crafted by you personally." He stated watching the boys open up their small bags they had brought out with them into the circle, and then complete this part of the ritual as they each took a turn giving their guides something they had made themselves.

While I watched my stomach started doing flip flops as I realized none of this had been taken care of by me. I knew that this would stop me from receiving my name. In a way I had expected this, yet at the same time it was still a bit disappointing.

"So, you boys have listened well and learned. This is good and it honors our people." The man stated as he turned his attention to me.

"So young Jackson, this is something where we might be at an impasse. You must present us here with four guides who you have chosen, and who will accept the responsibility, along with their offering, and gift." He told me simply when Ezra stepped in front of me looking hopeful as he handed over his bag to me.

Looking questioningly at him I accepted his bag and looked inside with my eyes opening up in surprise. "Go select four people Jackson." He whispered to me. "Choose wisely because from this point forward I cannot offer any more help or advice." He told me sincerely and I could tell he was hoping I had paid attention to him when he was teaching me some insights into their culture and beliefs.

Smiling at my friend I nodded my head in understanding as I looked around the gathering. The first one I spotted was Thomas Acoya, and his father standing off to the side as my heart soared with hope. Walking up to the younger boy I stopped in front of him, and hesitated a moment hoping beyond hope.

"Thomas…um…have you been given your name yet?" I asked him and sighed in relief when he nodded his head yes as he beamed with pride knowing where this was going.

Reaching inside the bag I handed him a bundle of tobacco with my left hand. He smiled at me, and nodded accepting the responsibility as he received the tobacco with his left hand acknowledging the tradition of giving and receiving kicnic-kicnic from heart to heart. Reaching inside the bag again, I pulled out a mostly red beaded necklace with some colors of yellow, black, and white dispersed throughout forming a sort of pattern that Ezra had taught me how to make, and placed it around the boy's neck as he nodded smiling his understanding. He now symbolized the color and easterly direction of the medicine wheel, which also represented spring and birth. It was appropriate because he would be my youngest guide. Stepping over to Mr. Acoya I offered him some tobacco as well, and he accepted graciously with a nod and supportive smile. For him I handed over the mostly black beaded necklace with some yellows, reds, and white beads dispersed in a similar type of pattern I had given to his son, which symbolized the westerly direction of the medicine wheel, and the fall season of adulthood.

Without Two Dogs able to be my guide I was at a bit of impasse not knowing who to select next since I didn't know anyone else when my eyes finally settled on Charlie and his grandfather. It all seemed to click in place for me now as I smiled knowingly. Walking over towards Charlie and his grandfather I offered them the tobacco along with their beaded necklaces. I gave the teenage Charlie the mostly yellow beaded necklaces accented with red, black, and white beads representing the southerly direction of the medicine wheel, and the summer season of youth. His grandfather received the white beaded necklace with accents of red, yellow, and black representing the northerly direction of the medicine wheel, and the winter of life. All four of my guides followed me back to the center of the circle with the Elder presiding over us smiling approvingly as he glanced over toward Ezra raising his eyebrows at the boy who just looked back and shrugged his shoulders.

"So Jackson, I see you have been wisely learning from your brother, and have found four guides who have accepted the task and burden asked of them." He commented while I nodded my head that this was true. "This is a bit unconventional to say the least, but I think we can accept what has just transpired. I gather that you have also made a hand crafted gift for your guides?" He asked me smiling as if he really needed to ask me the question.

As soon as Ezra had handed me his bag earlier and whispered in my ear that from this point forward he could not help me, it had become crystal clear what he had intended the entire time beginning a few weeks back when he moved in to our house after his grandfather's death. I could still remember that evening sitting in my room when I had asked him to teach me how to carve. He had agreed, but only if I carved out four horses, and also made four beaded necklaces symbolizing the sacred four directions. By making the beaded necklaces I was able to provide my guides the colors required to represent their role in the Medicine Wheel. In addition, with the four carved horses I could now provide them with my gift as a way to thank them for taking on this responsibility.

Stepping up in front of the younger Thomas I pulled out my first carving and not knowing whether or not it was appropriate spoke up nevertheless. "Tommy this is a carving of a small horse, a foal actually lying on the ground having just been born. It represents birth, the direction of the east." I smiled at him handing it over as his eyes got really big appreciating my gift before thanking me.

Next I stepped in front of the teenaged Charlie, and handed him his carved horse. "Charlie this is a horse at a full gallop as he races along and represents the southerly direction of youth. I feel this is appropriate for you because although you wish to race your horse later you have chosen not to because she isn't feeling well. I hope this will ease your disappointment?" I told him sincerely.

"Oh, she's beautiful Jackson. Thank you and I will treasure her always. If it wasn't for you I might have ended up hurting my horse if I had chosen to race her. It is not worth my horse's health, and I thank you so much for your guidance in this issue." He replied as I nodded my thanks.

Stepping over to Mr. Acoya I handed him the third horse. "Mr. Acoya this horse is rearing up as a sign of dominance and strength that adulthood provides a man in life. It symbolizes the direction of west on the Medicine Wheel." I told him as he admired the carving and thanked me.

There was one more carving to hand out as I stood in front of Charlie's grandfather and motioned Charlie over to translate. "I have saved the best for last, and believe me this was never planned." I stated as Charlie translated to his grandfather. "When I carved this last piece I had no idea how appropriate it truly would become." I declared as Charlie continued to translate for his grandfather while I noticed how the crowd around the arena was now listening to us intently. "This last horse represents the northerly direction and the winter years of one's life. Although the years may weigh heavily on one's shoulder we still fight kicking and screaming all the way to the end. This carving is of a horse kicking backwards giving someone a Charlie Horse reminding them you still have some spunk left in those old bones of yours." I finished as the entire circle of people started to bust up laughing as I handed over the horse to Charlie's grandfather who was aptly named Charlie Horse.

The old man looked at me and laughed so hard that I thought he would keel over with a heart attack as he tried to say something to his grandson while everyone slowly calmed down. "My grandfather has instructed me to tell you that at last the joke is on him." Charlie translated as once again the entire arena erupted in laughter since they all knew the old man, and have heard of his famous pranks and jokes throughout the years.

After everyone calmed down from the moment of levity becoming serious once more the Chief just shook his head at me and smiled. "So, it would appear that things do not occur by accident and always has a purpose. Normally it would require the Elders to consult with prayers and fasting for four days looking for a sign that is to be your name. This is no longer necessary in your case because while we were praying for the three Kostalini boys' names several of us kept having the same vision for a fourth name. It confused us at the time, but now I can speak for the rest of the Elder's and say the Creator has done this for a purpose." He stated nodding his head.

Gathering up his bundle of sage he stepped forward and one by one smudged each one of us boys along with our guides while saying a prayer in his own language. Then he whispered into the ears of the guides belonging to the Kostalini boys as they all nodded their heads in consent.

"Ezra, your guides agree. The Creator has shown us that you are tied to the future of our tribe; as such he has given you a name of 'Power.' It is not often we give out such a name, but the Elders agree that our vision rings true with the person you are becoming, and your guides concur. As the eldest it is your responsibility to teach your family our ways and traditions. There are five members in your family, which you must hold on to and protect when necessary like the fingers on your hand as they form into a fist. There are five of you, so this number will be a part of your name. In addition, we wish to honor your grandfather, and have given you a part of him so that you will always remember his wisdom and carry him in your heart. A part of his name shall now become your name as well. The bear is a potent totem in our community, but we believe you are to become more so have added Power to the totem of your family name to reflect the person you will become. Your new name among our people from this day forward shall be Achak Niananwi Mahkwa…Spirit Five Bears." The Chief announced to a buzz in the air with plenty nods of approval as if there was some sort of important significance to the name, but I didn't have time to ponder as the Chief continued with the next name.

Stepping up to the same four guides he whispered in their ear once more as they all nodded their heads. "Tyler, your guides have agreed. Your name shall be known as Pajackok Mahkwa. Time and time again you have shown your true spirit and heart as you speak out not only for your younger brother, but others as well. When you speak your voice carries outward with strength to all with truth like thunder in the sky, and in honor of your grandfather we name you…Thundering Bear…Pajackok Mahkwa."

Once more he stepped up to the four guides whispering in their ears and who all nodded their approval for the final time. "Zachary, your guides agree. You are the youngest of the Kostalini boys, but your heart is true and large for one and all. We name you Ishkwe Odji Mahkwa, Little Big Bear, in honor of your unwavering heart and your grandfather." He announced as everyone who was witnessing the ceremony nodded their approval at the choices of names given to the Kostalini boys.

I moved over a little giving the Chief some room so that he could step up to the other guides standing behind me and watched as he whispered in their ear one by one. I stood there breathless with anticipation trying to gauge my guides' reactions, but they all just looked my way and then glance away as they thought for a moment. There appeared to be some sort of confusion as they gathered around the Elder and conferred having a discussion. Finally the Chief stepped back and looked at me.

"Jackson, you are an enigma to our people. It is obvious you have the gift and have honored our ways. As I've told you several of the Elders have prayed and fasted for this naming ceremony, and some have received a fourth name, which at the time confused us. It is clear now that a name was meant for you. However, the vision was a bit strange and not completely clear to us at the time. You possess a gift with horses so in our vision we have seen a sacred horse that is and isn't a spirit. It is a vision of powerful medicine, and how this can be we do not know, but perhaps as Charlie Horse points out it has a double meaning because of your situation. It is confusing for us because you have a gift, and a connection to horses, which makes sense that we would be receiving these sorts of vision." He stated as he slowly walked over towards a group of Elders that were gathered together off towards one side of the circle while I his words sort of sunk into my mind making me wonder how all this was possible.

My focus returned back to the Chief and his small group that had gathered closely around him. It seemed as if it was a specific group of Elders who surrounded the Chief listening while he conferred with them. Several of them looked a bit shocked, and their voices became even more hushed as they conferred some more. It was starting to make me nervous, but Charlie Horse came up and patted my shoulders reassuringly while Zachary snuggled up to my side, and smiled up at me nodding his head that all was well. Then I saw all of the Elders nodding their head as the Chief came back slowly shaking his head as if something just occurred that was baffling.

Once more he whispered into the guides ears as each one seemed to be shocked for a moment before nodding their heads. "Jackson, all the Elders and your guides agree." He began shaking his head. "For the first time that we can recall an outsider will be receiving a Power Name from our tribe. This day is indeed a strange one for I have never heard of this ever happening before on the same day, that is to say giving out two Power Names. It just isn't done, yet here we are today, which will have many of us pondering over it for a very long time. You have the gift with horses, a good heart, and a willingness to help our tribe unselfishly. For this we name you Waapesk Pauau Niikotikasea, White Medicine Horse." He finished off as the entire circle just stood there in complete shock for several moments before all of a sudden a large explosion of approval seemed to roar out as they all started whooping it up and yelling.

It took some doing, but the Chief finally managed to calm everyone down. "Since you are an outsider we are using the newer format of the word for horse, Niikotikasea, derived through our Algonquian contemporary branch of the language instead of our more deep rooted traditional Kickapoouian version. We do not give out a Power Name lightly because one who receives such a name has much responsibility towards our community." The Chief tried to explain to me. "It is a name that must be earned throughout one's lifetime. Ezra, the burden has become heavier for you as it will be mostly your responsibility to teach your brother our ways. You will not be alone as Two Dogs will be there to guide you both. Jackson, we welcome you as our brother, and hope you will always use your gift for the benefit of the people. It is said the future of our people lies with our children, and I have a feeling the two of you will be a big part of that future for our tribe." He finished as he formally welcomed all of us boys into the circle of the tribe while the rest of the gathered people seemed to erupt in an explosion of conversations around the arena.

With the naming ceremony officially over Ezra brought out two large boxes and started handing things to his cousins pointing out which items went to which member of the tribe. To the Chief the boys presented the elderly man a beautiful wool Code Talker Pendleton Blanket in honor of the Chief's service in the military. He also gave one to my father in honor of his service knowing full well his military honors. The wool Pendleton blankets are a prized gift among the Native American people because they have historical significance and design patterns that are closely tied to the various tribes.

For instance, the design of the blanket given to my father and the Chief honors the crucial role played by Navajo and Choctaw servicemen who defended our country during the second World War by developing a code that could not be cracked and based on the Navajo language. It was a crucial element in the fight against our enemies, helped win the war, and was the only code in history never to be cracked. Many died protecting this code, and the blanket honored both them and the Code Talkers.

The nice thing about a Pendleton Blankets is that they had two sides with opposite colors. It was a process unique to the Pendleton design. The design of the Code Talker Blanket was really interesting. Not only did they use geometric designs of Native Americans on the blanket, but they also incorporated some of the images actually used in the code as examples that were used to translate the words. They used four patterns of military equipment positioned on the blanket representing the four directions. Below each image of the military vehicle, they placed an image of the corresponding animal that corresponded to the code, and then between the two images the actual name of the animal pictured.

So starting on the upper left side there is an image of a battleship with an image of a whale right below it, and sandwiched in-between the two images the word Lo-Tso. In the upper right side of the blanket there is the image of a plane and directly below it a bird with the word Tsidi between the two images. In the lower left side there was an image of a tank and below it a turtle with the word Chay - Da Gahi. Finally in the lower right side there was an image of a submarine and below it a shark with the word Besh – Lo. In the middle of the blanket are two Native American style crosses. Above and below the wartime images is a blank band with several flag style images of the red white and blue stripes with three white stars on each blue field all across on a horizontal pattern. In addition there were other geometric designs incorporated into the blanket giving it a Native American kind of styling.

With the two Pendleton Blankets presented other different kinds of gifts were now given out to some of the other Elders first before the rest of the gifts were handed out to the other people gathered around in the circle. It was a tradition among the Native American community to give back to the people. Some families save up things for years so that they can contribute to other members of the tribe. It was a way to show respect for those who have sacrificed to help with the naming ceremony. In a way I felt bad about not having done more to help in this manner, but Ezra assured me there would be other opportunities, and for now to join them enjoying giving out the gifts. I was more than happy to lend a helping hand, and in the process met many people in the community.

After all the gifts were handed out we were immediately swamped with people congratulating us as we slowly made our way to my parents. My mom was proud of us all, but she also gave Two Dogs a look that spoke volumes. She wasn't happy with how things had sort of spun out of control like that and wanted some answers. Ezra leaned in and whispered that he and his cousins were going to check up on the horses because in about half an hour they would be starting the race. He motioned for me to stay behind, and said he'd be back shortly.

"So what was all of that about?" My mom asked Two Dogs who just shrugged his shoulders.

"Politics." The man just replied smiling at her.

"Yes, but how is Ezra involved in all of this?" She pressed the man.

"Listen Nancy, Mr. Kostalini had been preparing Ezra for his role in the tribe since the boy was born. It was generally understood that Ezra's father would be next in line, but Kostalini always knew that although his son would be a good leader, it would be his grandson that would hold the key to the tribe's future. Ezra knew exactly what he was doing, and what had transpired no one could have imagined." Two Dogs pointed out. "Well, other than perhaps Ezra."

"I don't understand…what do you mean?" My father asked.

"That man Ezra so efficiently dispatched has been hounding the council of Elders for years to be the replacement if and when something happened to Kostalini. He has manipulated, strong armed, and tried to buy his way into the position of power. It started with his great grandfather gaining status in the tribe, and has been going on with the family ever since. They despised Kostalini and what he stood for, which really is honesty and truth. They are power hungry and thought that by forcing Kostalini's grandfather into purchasing the land many years back it would break the Kostalini family." He explained.

"I see." My father nodded his head. "By making the Kostalini family responsible for preserving the sacred lands of his people, they hoped it would ruin them financially and affect their sway in the council; especially, if they ended up loosing the land in the process." My father pointed out.

"Yes, and it did hurt the Kostalini family for many years allowing that other miserable family to flourish in influence. However, they never counted on Kostalini's grandfather's foresight. He knew the key to preserving the tribe culturally also was connected to the land. In addition, the Kostalini family was always there for the people, so in the end Ezra's family slowly regained their footing within the council while the other family slowly waned because of their greed. Over the years they have steadily been loosing power through bad investing among other things. They've been hoping to regain power and control in the coming months. Ezra knew this, and forced the competing Elder's hand. It was a gamble, but he played it masterfully as if born to it. Believe me, whether or not the tribe flourishes will be because of Ezra, and many within the council of Elders know this." He told my parents.

"So, the council didn't know this was coming?" My mom asked a bit shocked.

"No of course not. They would have stopped it before it began because it could have been disastrous for the tribe. They are mired with indecision even though they know what is right for the community. As the Spiritual Advisor, Kostalini had major sway in the council, and also had the power to outright refuse any decisions he deemed harmful to the people. On more than one occasion it was his power of decision making that forced the other family's hand. The family has always wanted the tribe to fund the money on their investments, and if it failed they would not loose out, but if it succeeded they would reap most of the profits. They would have bled the tribe dry, and often the Chief and other Elders never had a choice in the matter. The only thing that saved them time and time again was Kostalini." Two dogs explained.

"So today Ezra forced their hand to assert his own power within the community." My father quipped impressed with the younger boy.

"Yes, Ezra knew what he was doing, and forced their hand in order to save the tribe. It was a great risk to Ezra and his family honor, but he did it for the betterment of our community just as his family has done throughout the history of our people. The council up until that point was stuck with the other family because of their influence. With them gone and disgraced, it opens up the door for Ezra to step into the role properly now. Even though he is still young the council will be forced to accept him in this position now, and it has happened in the past so they cannot claim he is too young. Kostalini knew this, so had prepared the boy for this responsibility." Two Dogs informed my parents as he paused a moment before continuing.

"He also made sure to protect the boy until it was time for him to step up and fulfill his role. He did this by keeping the boy out of the tribal school so that the tribe could not influence him in any way, and took it upon himself to teach the boy what he would need to know of our traditions and culture. He also knew that the future would lie in how well his grandson does out in the White man's world, so sending the boy to the white man's school helps guarantee this. He made sure his grandson knew our old language along with English so that translations would be done properly in the future for contracts and negotiations. In addition, he deeded the property over to Ezra, to ensure his sway in the council. The final straw was giving his grandson and grandnephews a stable home outside of the council's control. By staying in the tribal school the younger boys will continue to learn about our traditions and culture, satisfying the staunchest of critics in the council, but living with you they will learn things outside of our culture that will help them in life." He explained to my parents who sort of digested this information.

"So Mr. Kostalini had an ulterior motive for sending the boys to us?" My mother asked a bit shaken.

"No of course not Mrs. Elborn. He's been worried sick about the council getting control over the boys, and forcing decisions on their part that would work against the tribe's interests. When you came along it was a blessing. He knew he had found a safe place for the boys in an environment that would love and nurture them. Do not ever believe anything else Mrs. Elborn. Kostalini's foremost thought was the well being of his grandchildren, well grandson and grandnephews. It just so happened it came about so that it would also benefit the tribe. It is a good thing our Chief and Kostalini worked well together over the years. Our Chief is getting old, and knows it will be his time soon as well. He worked with Kostalini for years to ensure the tribe's future. If there is one person who might have known this was a possibility it would have been him, but I think Ezra threw a few curve balls in there, which our poor Chief wasn't prepared for. It is also a good thing our Chief is having a good day because he really was on the ball today and able to handle the surprises Ezra hurled at him. What happened here has effectively ensured our tribe's future all in one fell swoop." He told my parents smiling happily.

"Well I hope so, but we are still concerned for Ezra and what this means for him. We will be discussing this with you further." My mom pointed out not liking the idea of Ezra having so much responsibility at such a young age, but dropping the matter for now since this was supposed to be a happy occassion.

Turning his attention back to me, Two Dogs smiled brilliantly. "Well played Jackson, or shall I call you White Medicine Horse?" He stated ruffling my hair.

"Hmmm, I don't know Two Dogs. Would it be alright for now if I used White Horse? I feel a bit strange about using my full name." I told him seriously.

"Of course it is alright. It would be sort of a shortened version or nickname. People will accept it, and know you reserve the right to your full name for more formal matters. This is a good thing, and shows you are not so pompous. I also like the way our Elders presented you with the Algonquian name for horse instead of our traditional one like they did with me, which is actually dog like you very well know." He added laughing and slapping me on the shoulder before calming back down. "Anyway, why aren't you out there with Surefoot getting ready for the race?" He asked me seriously.

"Race…me?" I asked incredulously.

"Of course. I am placing a big bet on you. I think with you riding Surefoot you are a shoe in for first place, and I know that damn ornery beast always held back just enough to ensure I never won on him." He laughed jokingly. "Come-on I will help you with Surefoot, and show you what you will need to know." He stated pointing me in the direction of where Surefoot was until my mom spoke up.

"I don't think that is a good idea." She told Two Dogs her motherly instincts kicking into high gear as she got very protective over me.

"Why not? Ezra, Tyler, and Zachary are racing as well." He replied.

"What, no, they are too young." My mom interjected looking around now for the younger boys. "Aren't there any kinds of requirements like age?" My mom retorted.

"Of course there are requirements Mrs. Elborn. No one can enter the race unless they have their name." He replied honestly. "Why would you be so worried about Ezra, Tyler, and Zachary racing their horses? They race all the time, and have ridden horses since before they could even walk." He pointed out.

The two of them went back and forth arguing over the matter until my dad finally spoke up. He convinced my mom that they might as well get used to these sorts of things, and since we were hosting the naming ceremony it would look bad for the boys not to compete. My mom tried to argue regarding me, but in the end relented there as well realizing that with me having a new horse and name, people were expecting me to participate as well. She didn't like the idea and forbade me to race seriously telling me I had to be sure to take it easy allowing the others to pass me by. Of course Two Dogs chuckled at the idea, and whisked me away to get me prepared.

Now as I sat atop Surefoot lined up with about thirty other racers my heart started to pump rapidly, and my adrenalin heightened my senses. Surefoot seemed calm beneath me, which helped to alleviate some of my nervousness. Two Dogs had shown me the route laid out on the flat desert landscape. It was a rather simple course along a sand packed route about two car lanes wide with two rounded turns before the last stretch brought you to the finish line. Two Dogs instructed me to be sure to get towards the front of the pack, but not to let Surefoot get carried away. He was a fast horse and would want to come out fast and furious, but this was a long race so I needed to make sure and pace Surefoot until close to the end.

Patting my horse on the neck I leaned in and whispered in his ear. "Well boy, I think it is about time we show everyone what you've really got. Now don't take things too fast because it is a long race. Conserve your energy until the end." I smiled patting his neck as Surefoot sort of looked back at me as if to say 'yeah whatever…just sit there and let me do all the work.'

Smiling and shaking my head at the horse I just had to chuckle. "Alright fine, but remember don't get carried away because we still have to work as a team." I reminded Surefoot who just neighed softly, and turned his attention back to the line of horses.

As I looked to my left and right my new family of brothers was lined up on either side of me. Ezra was immediately to my left, while Zachary and Tyler were to my right. We all were smiling fiercely not able to contain our excitement. My eyes roamed around at all of the competitors, and it took me a moment to realize there really was a wide range of age difference. Zachary was probably the youngest at seven years old, and as I looked towards my left all the way towards the end of the line there was an elderly man who looked to be in his seventies. It gave me a good feeling to know that age wasn't a factor in this competition. Looking over up on a rise I could see my parents with Two Dogs standing next to them. They looked a bit worried, but put on a brave smile, while Two Dogs just seemed to beam proudly at us and pump his fist in the air in a sign of take no prisoners' kind of attitude.

My attention snapped back towards an Elder who climbed up on a rock, held up a pistol, and fired signaling the start of the race. Surefoot leaped into action as I held on jolted in the seat of my saddle. We had gotten off to a good start as we thundered down the first leg of the course. There were only four other riders ahead of me as we tried to put some distance between us and the rest of the pack by setting a brisk pace, yet still maintained a steady tempo that wouldn't wear out our horses. Surefoot and I remained in the fifth position keeping our distance a bit so that sand and dirt wouldn't pummel us to death. The further away we got from the start line the warmer it seemed to get. The wind felt exhilarating blasting up against my face and hair, but I could feel my skin starting to dry out. I thanked Two Dogs under my breath for suggesting putting some sun screen on before the race.

Just before the turn I snuck a peak behind me by ducking my head under my left arm as Two Dogs had instructed instead of just turning my head around in the upright position. This way I wouldn't throw off Surefoot's pacing by shifting my balance. I had to smile because Ezra, Tyler, and Zachary were just several horse lengths behind me. In a way it was comforting to have my three brothers right along with me. Turning my attention back to our first turn I leaned in and shouted to Surefoot. "The first turn is coming up." I yelled not really knowing if he understood or not. As the sharp turn approached I eased back on the reigns slightly signaling he needed to slow down.

Surefoot responded masterfully as he slowed down just enough to make the turn at optimal speed. I noticed that the two horses in front of me almost collided together as they made the turn, and tried to jockey each other for position. We were too far behind them to capitalize this time, but my instincts told me to ease forward and close the gap a little so I urged Surefoot closer. A few moments later another opportunity presented itself when I saw the two horses start to close the spacing between them as they seemed to edge nearer together. Instinctively I seemed to know what was going to happen so I leaned in and shouted. "Now Surefoot." I yelled and felt his muscles bunch up under me as a burst of speed seemed to jolt me once more into the saddle. Just as it appeared the two horses would collide together both riders yanked their respective horse's reigns outward forcing them apart slightly effectively slowing them down, which creating the perfect space for me as Surefoot thundered past between both of them without much effort.

Looking back beneath my arm I saw the rider on the inside track react to what happened by forcing his horse back to the right closer to the other rider trying to close off the gap. He committed his second mistake because it left open enough space for all three of my brothers to duck past him and the other rider using the inside lane. This left only two more riders ahead of us. While we ate up the distance on the second leg of the track I noticed the horse up ahead of us start to slow down as if it was beginning to loose stamina from the long race. The rider recognized his fatiguing horse, and remained on the outside of the track allowing us to pass him without too much effort.

This left only one rider ahead of us. Two Dogs had warned me about this rider and his horse. They had been winning a lot of races together over the last two years. The light colored Arabian was a very fast horse, and he told me if that horse was ahead of me then my only hope would be to wait until close to the end, and try to make a sprint for it with Surefoot. I kept this in mind as the final turn approached and I warned Surefoot. Once again we rounded the sharp turn without too much effort, and actually closed the gap a little as the other horse ahead of us had miscalculated and stumbled a bit before recovering his pace. This was now the last stretch, but there was still a long ways to go. About a quarter of the way along this last stretch I decided to ignore Two Dogs suggestion.

There was just something about Surefoot's gate that indicated he still had a lot of steam left in him. "Alright Surefoot, let's see what you've really got." I told him as I leaned in giving him his head and using only my knees to direct him.

Surefoot seemed to sense me allowing him to have his head so he immediately sprang into action as his body stretched out, and his true speed was released. The distance between us and the other horse and rider started to dissipate in a surprisingly rapid fashion. The other rider seemed to sense us so spurred his own horse into action, and all of a sudden it seemed as if he was matching us in speed. Then Surefoot surprised me even more as he seemed to call on some hidden reserve and stretched himself to the max rapidly eating up ground. The rider up ahead must have sensed it because he slowly eased his horse towards the inside hoping to block us off, but I was expecting it and right at the same time he eased his horse towards the inside I used my knees letting Surefoot know to take the outside lane. The other rider's horse veered inwards while we veered outwards, and before he knew it we were passing him up on the outside lane.

When we sprinted past the lead horse it seemed to deflate them a bit as the distance between the two of us continued to increase. I let Surefoot keep his head as he rumbled down the trail without missing a beat. He was now in a flat out sprint as the finish line loomed ahead of us. Taking a quick peak under my arm looking behind me I was actually surprised to see how far ahead of everyone else we truly were as Surefoot continued to eat away at the distance. I could feel the cooler air from the lush greenery surrounding the small mountain up against my face now, along with the feeling of moisture. With one last glance I was amazed to see that Ezra and Tyler had also passed up the lead horse, and Zachary seemed to be in a battle for fourth place.

Surefoot and I blasted past the finish line with a roar of cheers and whooping way ahead of the others as I slowed him down patting his neck appreciatively giving him praise. "Well done Surefoot. I will give you a wonderful treat here in a bit." I giggled as I slowed him down to a walk, and turned just in time to see Tyler cross the finish line a half horse length in front of Ezra, beating out his older brother for the first time ever in a race. I could see the elation and pride in Tyler's face as his older cousin congratulated him with sincerity.

My attention was now focused on Zachary as he battled it out for fourth place. The two horses and riders jockeyed for position as they approached the finish line. Just when I thought Zachary would loose out, his sorrel colored Paint seemed to find some reserve energy managing to edge out the other horse by a nose. The crowd erupted with a roar as they cheered excitedly at the outcome. We as a family had taken first through fourth place, something never done before as all four of us came together cooling down our horses and giggling excitedly.

"That was so damn awesome," Tyler whooped it up while we followed suit pumping our fists in the air and giving each other hugs.

A short while later the final competitor finally crossed the finish line with everyone cheering and shouting encouragingly. In this race it didn't matter if you were last because it was an honor just to be able to ride and compete. While we all gathered around together seeing to our horse's needs walking them around to get them cooled down I saw Tommy Acoya approaching with a broad smile on his face. He walked up and shook my hands.

"Wow, this was a totally awesome day…and this race, totally wicked." He chuckled as he did a high five with Tyler and Zachary. "Man, this was one heck of a naming ceremony, and it will be talked about for a long time." He smiled as he walked with us back over towards the rest of the spectators.

"Cool." Ezra laughed at Tommy's exuberance while we all saw to our horses' needs before attending the award ceremony.

"Hey Tommy, I was just wondering if…um," I started out getting an idea. "Well, I'm having a party tomorrow afternoon at my house, and I was hoping you can come too. It's just some of my friends so it won't be all that big, but still a pretty good crowd. I'm sure Tyler and Zachary would love to have you there to help keep them company since most of my friends are older. There will be swimming in our heated pool, and my dad's going to fire up the BBQ with lots of food." I finished as I got Surefoot's saddle off of him starting to rub him down making sure to give him some water and feed.

Thomas looked at me nodding his head doing the same with his horse. "Sounds like fun so sure. Do I need to bring anything?" He asked me.

"Nah, just bring your bathing suit and dry clothes. If you want to bring a towel that's fine, but we have plenty of those as well." I told him as we concentrated on finishing up.

Thirty minutes later everyone had gathered together again as one of the Elder's presented me with a beaded five foot long spear with feathers attached all along the shaft. It was beautifully crafted and looked very old as if it had been around for many generations. I admired the beadwork as I held it in my hand. He also handed me a smaller yellow and blue beaded staff that was about twenty four inches long, which I found out later were the tribe's official colors.

"Jackson in honor of your victory we award you a small beaded coup stick to have as a remembrance of this day and to keep for yourself. You also have earned the privilege of carrying our tribes Spear that has been handed down through the generations. It will be your duty to protect it until our next event where it will exchange hands to a new warrior. In this way the responsibility is spread throughout the members of our tribe." The Elder smiled congratulating me as he handed me a small envelope as well before handing out a similar white envelop to Tyler, Ezra, and Zachary as the second, third, and fourth place winners.

At this point the Elder announced it was time to feast in honor of the naming ceremony and race. Tables had been set out with food spread out on them. My parents had brought plenty for everyone, but other members of the tribe had also willingly contributed to help out with the burden. There was more than enough to go around as everyone started to mingle around and enjoyed catching up with one another. These types of gatherings were a way for the community to celebrate together, and catch up with what was going on in family and friends' lives.

Ezra gathered us together and asked for the envelopes so we handed them over to him. "What's inside the envelopes?" I asked him a bit curious.

"It's a total of five hundred dollars in prize money, but we can't accept it." Ezra pointed out making me scrunch up my eyes wondering why as he explained further. "This is our naming ceremony Jackson, and the money in the envelopes is from us to begin with to award members of the tribe for the race. It wouldn't be right for us to accept this money, and can be viewed as a conflict of interest. Instead, I will hand the money back to the Elders so that they can give it out to those who really need it. They will give five families a hundred dollars each to help cover expenses of coming here. This way the wealth is redistributed to members of our people who can really benefit." He explained to me as I nodded my head in approval.

"Why didn't we just hand back the money when it was awarded to us so that they could take care of it then?" I asked him curiously.

"Because, this way it can be handled discretely, and not shame a family who needs this kind of help. For a family to refuse, unless he has a good reason for not taking it, would be to dishonor us as well. In this way they maintain their honor, and so do we." He explained to me making it sound so simple.

I watched as he made his way over to a couple of Elders and handed over the prize money. They talked for a few moments and shook Ezra's hand as they nodded their heads approvingly. After separating the money into five bundles amounting to one hundred dollars each, they started to make their way through the crowds. One of the people they talked to was Mr. Acoya who greeted them warmly, and then shook his head. I saw him pointing towards my father as he seemed to try explaining something to the Elder.

"What's going on over there?" I asked Tyler who looked over to Mr. Acoya.

"Oh, I'm sure the Elder was offering him a part of the prize money since it has been tough for his family the last couple of years. I think Mr. Acoya is thanking the Elder for the offer, but is explaining to him that his family is now stable with their income thanks to the deal your father offered him. This way the money can go to a different family that can use it, and he can refuse in a way that still does not dishonor us." Tyler explained making me proud to be part of such a wonderful community that looks out for its people.

We sort of hung out a little off to the side allowing others to go through the line for their food. Since I had the coup stick and spear I decided it was better just to go and put them safely away in the plane. I quickly made my way over and secured the items so that I could get back before I was missed. When I arrived back my folks were standing around with Ezra and the boys waiting for me so that we could grab a quick bite to eat as well.

"Congratulations Jackson." My mom smiled as she gave me a hug. "However, you're still in big trouble making me worry like that over you boys." She scolded me teasingly. "Whew, you boys are going to need a bath when you get home. You're all filthy and smell like horses." She commented making us all just chuckle, but I had to agree because it looked as if we had been rolling around in the dirt with our horses. "Come-on let's get a bite to eat. I think just about everyone's managed to go through the line already." She stated as we finally made our way through grabbing a few things to nibble on.

We found a cozy spot under a tree, and sat down on some of the boulders. As I looked around I found myself enjoying the day, and it made me happy seeing how people seemed to have a good time as they mingled around enjoying one another's company. There was a lot of joking around and happy reunions as families and friends caught up with the latest gossip. Two Dogs joined us as he sat next to me and smiled proudly holding up a large bundle of money that he had won with betting on me before putting it away.

"So, how did it feel to sit on Surefoot when he stretched out like that?" The man asked me smiling as he clapped me on the shoulder.

"Oh man, it was totally awesome." I told him as he nodded his head.

"I knew that ornery beast was holding back on me." He chuckled. "So, I was thinking that I would drop off the horses at the Acoya's on the way back today. You might want to drop by tomorrow and talk to Thomas about what you will need for them to stable the horses. I know the animals are in capable hands with the Acoya's, but still it is the courteous thing to do." He suggested as we all nodded our heads.

"Yeah, that's actually cool because then we can take Tommy with us since I invited him to my party." I told my parents who then thought it another good reason to head over.

"Boys, I'm very proud for all of you." Two Dogs praised the boys. "You've done your grandfather very proud, and Ezra?" The man smiled warmly at the older boy.

"Yes, cousin." Ezra stated using the affectionate term for the man who isn't really his cousin, but still much more a family than most.

"I'm so proud of you for how you managed to handle things. You've helped secure the tribes future; although, I think you also managed to put the Elders on notice that you aren't going to be a pawn for them to use. I think they are a bit afraid in some ways, and this is a good thing. It will make sure they do not do anything rash. You're grandfather would be very proud indeed, and I know he worked very hard at teaching you as much as possible so that you would be ready to step into your task." He told the boy as he gave Ezra a big hug.

"Thanks Two Dogs and I'm sorry I didn't tell you ahead of time what I was planning on doing, but this too is something grandfather taught me. My biggest hope was that when the time presented itself everyone would do what was necessary. I had to keep everything to myself so that our Elders could not be blamed for anything if things didn't work out." Ezra smiled at Two Dogs trying to explain things.

"Yes of course and I understand very well, and I know the Elders do too." He responded looking up when he saw two of my guides walking over.

I stood up and greeted Charlie Horse and his grandson. "Hey Charlie, I hope you aren't too disappointed with not being able to race?" I asked as I shook his grandfather's hand as well.

"No, and I'm glad you suggested it since my horse just doesn't seem to be herself these days. I think though with your suggestion she will be just fine." He nodded his head.

"Hello Charlie Horse. I wanted to thank both of you for being my guides at the naming ceremony. I didn't know anyone else except for the Acoya's, so I'm glad you helped me." I told the elderly man who just smiled and nodded his head while his grandson translated.

"My grandfather wants to thank you and the others for helping us out. One of the Elders came by and said you have insisted on sharing your winning with us." Charlie translated for his grandfather.

"Oh, that's not a problem, besides the money wasn't meant for us, but rather for others. It was just a fluke that we managed to all 'place' in the race." Ezra assured them.

"My grandfather also wants to thank you Jackson for the wonderful gifts you gave us all for being your guide. The gift was very appropriate, and he thought it was funny how you managed to make him the butt of a joke. No one has managed to do this to him in years." Charlie chuckled while his grandfather smiled, and held up the horse that was kicking out backwards.

"I'm just happy he likes it, but Ezra is the one who taught me how to carve." I told them both as Charlie Horse looked a bit surprised.

"Really? My grandfather says that you really do have some talent because the pieces are very well done. He will always cherish this gift." He told me as I watched the elderly man place the horse inside his beaded leather tobacco pouch, which I knew was very significant since tobacco is a highly prized herb among the Native American community.

"Hey listen Charlie; I'm having a party tomorrow at my house tomorrow, and I was hoping you would be able to come over. We are going to have a BBQ with plenty of food. Also we have a heated pool so bring your bathing suit. It will be a small group with some of them from my diving team. There will be a few older friends around your age so I was hoping maybe you would come. I've invited Tommy Acoya as well, and I think it is fitting since the two of you helped me out. What do you say?" I asked him as Charlie translated to his grandfather who smiled and nodded his head.

"Sure that sounds like a lot of fun. Should I bring something?" He asked me just like Tommy had.

"No of course not…just your bathing suit and some dry clothing for afterwards." I told him as he nodded his head and said good bye.

The rest of the afternoon went in a similar fashion until it was time to head out. We mingled around with several people as Ezra made his rounds introducing me to everyone. Tyler and Zachary tagged along making sure to say hello to everyone since technically they were the hosts. Actually I had to admit that I was having a really good time since everyone was friendly and wanted to get to know me. They all seemed to want to rub their hands on me, and after a while I started to wonder what was going on. Ezra explained to me that everyone just wanted to rub some of my gift and luck on to themselves so they could have a better chance with their horses next time around. In a way some of it was just teasing while in other ways they truly hoped for some good fortune. I smiled at this information, and allowed everyone to have their fun.

It was early evening when things finally wrapped up, and the last group of people started to filter out on their way home. Ezra had taken some time alone with some of the Elders as they sort of had an informal meeting. I'm sure that in the future Ezra would be called to these sorts of meetings more often. I also had a feeling that people will be calling on him more and more for their personal problems as well. I just hoped it wouldn't weigh too heavily on him.

Now that the last of the people were leaving we made one last sweep of the area making sure everything was picked up. As the host it was our responsibility to make sure everything was taken care of before we left. It really didn't take very long because everyone made sure to pick up after themselves trying to keep the area in its pristine state. Satisfied, we said good bye to the last of the people who had remained behind to help us, and climbed into the plane heading for home. I let Ezra sit up front with my dad so that he could get some flying time in since I had taken control of the plane on the way over. I already had my pilot's license so now we were working on getting Ezra qualified as well.

As our plane veered towards home I looked through the porthole from the last row of seats in the plane enjoying the view. It had been a long but eventful day, and I was tired even though it really wasn't all that late. Tomorrow would be another long fun filled day with my birthday party. Looking over to the seat next to me I noticed that Zachary's head was bobbing up and down as he tried to stay awake. Unbuckling my seatbelt I reached beneath my seat pulling out the blankets I had stashed underneath it. Handing two of them up to my mom so that she could cover up Tyler who already seemed to be nodding off, I held on to the other two. One I rolled up against the side of the plane, and like I had done with Marco a few months back, I unbuckled Zachary's seat belt and stretched my legs over his seat while he sat on my lap leaning forward snuggling up against my chest so that he could get some sleep.

Resting my back up against the rolled up blanket I felt much more comfortable than the last time I had done this with Marco. With the other blanket I threw it over the top of us, and immediately felt the warmth wrap around us. Zachary was already almost asleep as I shifted around a bit getting more comfortable. It felt so cozy having him snuggling up to me like this as I wrapped my arm around his small body and slowly caressed his back. I felt him shuddering a little under my gentle administrations as his breathing evened out, and he drifted off to sleep. I could feel his small little bulge pressing up against my stomach, and I smiled enjoying how it felt against me along with the closeness of my little brother.

The boy wasn't sporting an erection or anything, and the tender feelings I felt for him at the moment wasn't sexual in nature. It was just such warm gratifying brotherly love type of feeling that washed over me as it sunk in not for the first time that I truly had brothers of my very own now. I felt so much love at the moment for my little brother that I couldn't help myself as I hugged him tightly to me, and leaned down kissing his forehead lightly eliciting a tender smile from the half asleep boy. When I looked up I noticed my mom had been watching, and she smiled at me knowingly for the love I exhibited towards my new little brother. I watched as my mom focused her attention back on Tyler tucking the blanket around him snugly, and leaned in giving the boy a kiss on the cheek before turning to me and blowing me a kiss as well. I smiled back at her appreciatively as I snuggled up under the warmth of the blanket and faded off to sleep.

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