The Apprentice

by Sahypo

Chapter 41

Sharon was a bit surprised that Kurt would agree to see one of the counselors at her workplace so readily, but she decided not to push it further. She remembered back yesterday to Kurt's words when he had asked to see Jimmy again.

"Kurt…um, you asked me if I thought Jimmy would be upset about you changing your name if you were to be adopted…did you want to talk about it? Adoption I mean…"

"Do I have to?" Kurt asked

"Talk about it?" Sharon replied, confused.

"No…I mean, do I have to be adopted…Is there like a law or something?" Kurt wondered.

"Oh, no, honey there isn't anything that says you have to or not…" Sharon explained. "It would have to be something you want, and are comfortable with, Kurt."

"Do I have to be adopted to change my name?" Kurt asked.

Sharon and Jerry chuckled at that; Kurt was genuinely confused by this reaction to his question. At times the Jarvis's had to keep in mind how naïve Kurt could be. The dysfunction that surrounded his mother had been a wall that kept Kurt from exposure to the outside world at times, and he lacked general knowledge of a lot of things. Much as Timmy had found, leaving his environment had opened up his world to the many things he had never learned that other kids took as basic.

"No, Kurt…You can do that pretty simply at the courthouse." Jerry patted Kurt on the shoulder and smiled reassuringly.

Kurt nodded. He sat very quietly for a long time, but ate his food. He wasn't brooding, but something was clearly on his mind.

"Does adoption mean that nobody can come and take me away, too?"

Jerry looked puzzled for a moment, then realized Kurt had always probably had some fear of this new life being snatched away from him, as if he were in a dream and it was time to wake up to his past existence. He still jerked awake at night at odd times, and took several moments to get his bearings and realize where he was.

Jerry gently massaged the thin boy's neck and shoulders and replied.

"Look, Kurt….Um, I'm not going to sit here and tell you that could never happen, because kids get taken out of homes every day, just like you were taken away from your mom, okay?"

Kurt nodded.

"Now, let's look at some other things…We have rights as your guardians. You also have rights that have to be considered as well. Whoever would want to change things would have to go to court and first petition to have our guardianship overturned, which isn't likely to happen, since I doubt the judge would find cause to do that. As long as you are in school, have a clean, safe place to live and aren't being abused, a long lost relative of yours would have to show up and press their rights really hard to pull you out of here...the only folks you have that could do that would be Bertie or your grandma."

Kurt nodded.

"I don't think they want to do that." Kurt said.

"Me either" Sharon chimed in. "The fact that you chose to come to us, and you choose to stay with us carries a lot of weight, too. Kurt." There was still a lot of scared little kid sitting in Kurt, and Sharon took his chin in her hand and made him look her in the eyes.

"No one's going to take you out of here against your wishes, Kurt." Sharon stated. "You can stay here as long as you will have us."

Kurt smiled. "I hope so" he said meekly.

"You have been thinking about changing your name a lot lately…"

"Yes, I have, mom. A whole lot."

"And?"

"I want to do it. I want it to be what it shoulda been, you know?" Kurt stated.

It was hard for Kurt to assert himself at times, since he had been conditioned to expect physical abuse if he spoke out or tried to stand up to his mother. Other than packing his things and voting with his feet, he had never really been able to influence anything major in his life.

"I'll start looking into it tomorrow, honey" Sharon replied. Kurt's mood immediately lifted. The conversation turned lighter and Jerry told the boys that he had news for them.

"Listen up, you two…Tomorrow is Friday, but not just any Friday. Tonight, before you go to bed, you guys pack a bag with overnight stuff. I want you to put old clothes in there, clothes you can throw away type stuff, and a change of good clothes. You can do shorts and flip flops for the hotel, but jeans and real shoes for where we're going…got me?"

The boys nodded. "Sure, Dad…Uh, what's going on?" Nicky wondered.

"Well, I'm not going to tell you exactly, but the three of us, and Isaac, Timmy and Sean are going on a road trip for a few hours, and we have to be there at really oh dark thirty Saturday morning. So the plan is to leave after school tomorrow, get where we are going, and spend the night at a nice lodge tomorrow night."

"Is there a pool at this lodge?" Nicky asked.

"Yup" Jerry replied.

"Cool!" the boys said in unison.

"So what is this trip about, anyway?"

"Can't say…I've been sworn to secrecy." Jerry stated.

He and Isaac had cooked this up after Isaac had shown Jerry a brochure for a railway tour and told him he was going to take Timmy and Sean, and wondered if Jerry and the boys wanted to join. Isaac had made arrangements for a special surprise for Timmy once they got there, which involved the early hour and need for old clothes. Isaac had also filled Jerry in on some of his history with Timmy, and how he had enjoyed surprising the kid and the game he played, refusing to tell Timmy what was in store.

"So get your bug-out bag packed and put it in the van. Make sure you pack toothbrushes and deodorant, boys"

"Are you saying we stink?" Nicky asked with a smirk.

"You both do stink sometimes, beloved sons of mine" Sharon smirked. Kurt raised his arm and sniffed, his small patches of dark armpit hair trapping no musk at the moment so soon after the boys had showered. When he looked up, he found an amused audience of three looking at him with grins on their faces.

"What? It ain't me!" Kurt protested.

"Had to check first, though, dintja?" Nicky snipped with a knowing look. Kurt grabbed Nicky's arm and raised it, then stuck his nose in the perfectly smooth hairless pocket underneath. Nicky too, was devoid of any odor.

"No stinkies there either." Kurt affirmed with great satisfaction, having exonerated himself and his brother of suspicions of stinky pit-itis.

With that, the boys left the table and set about their task. Nicky found a gym bag and put it in Kurt's room on his bed. Kurt got out the pants he had painted the room in and a tee shirt that had stains on it, and put it in the bag. Nicky came in with his shorts, flip flops, underwear and swimsuit. He figured with a change of underwear he could wear his school clothes again Saturday evening.He put some old jeans and a tee shirt in the bag, then Kurt put his items in the bag, and Nicky left to get the boy's toothbrushes.

"Oh thanks, Nicky…but we need those for the morning too."

"I got some new ones out for that. We can toss these on the trip, dude." Nicky replied, putting the brushes and toothpaste in the bag.

"Where's your deodorant stick?"

"I don't have one. I use yours" Nicky replied, as he left the room to get some old clothes.

Kurt smiled as he stared at the space in the hallway that Nicky had just occupied. Was this what having a brother really meant? Was this what it meant to belong somewhere? Little things like sharing a deodorant stick…Nicky and William cuddling him when he was alone. No one had ever cuddled Kurt until he fled the trailer. He wondered if the other boys in "The Chancre" would ever get out. Just as he began to get lost in his thoughts, Nicky came back into the room.

"Dude…what's up, you okay?"

Kurt realized Nicky was speaking to him, and focused back in on the younger boy.

"Sorry, man, I guess I was zoning for a moment."

"I'm used to that." Nicky grinned. "It's cool…It's who you are, what you do, dude."

"Really? I didn't…" Kurt began.

"You do do that a lot. But you wouldn't be you if you didn't do that…does that make any sense, because I think I just confused myself!" Nicky giggled, cracking up.

Kurt put Nicky in a gentle full Nelson from behind, and began rocking the younger boy from one foot to the other, while trying to lift Nicky off the floor.

"Thanks. I'm glad you're my little bro, Nicky."

"Acccck! I can see that! I love you too! Really!" Nicky giggled. He wasn't sure what was going on, but he knew he was in for the ride, wherever it led. Kurt let Nicky go, and sat on the bed.

"Do you mean that, Nicky?" Kurt asked. "I take time with your folks away from you…I know that."

Nicky sat on the bed next to Kurt. "I don't look at it like that Kurt…I really don't. Yes, I love you, so do Mom and Dad and yes, I want you to stay more than anything…You know I don't lie, and this is how I feel about things." Nicky gave Kurt a hug, and got up.

"You okay?"

Kurt nodded. "It's been a hell of a day...Um, Nicky…would you stay with me tonight…Please?"

Nicky nodded. "Yeah…um, I want to watch my show, then we can go to bed, okay?"

Kurt nodded. Nicky never missed an episode of NYPD Blue, and it was about to go on air in a few minutes. He picked the bag up and walked out to the van and put it in the back.

An hour later, the boys went back to the hall bathroom, peed and brushed their teeth. They murmured their goodnights and were both fast asleep in minutes. In the morning, Kurt's watch woke them up, and they took a shower together to save time. Kurt did find Nicky's body exciting, and the boys had shared sexual intimacy in the past, but lately Kurt's curiosities centered on Chloe…Both boys had erections after the morning piss, and took care of themselves in the time honored tradition, their semen mixing on the floor of the shower before sliding down the drain.

Once dressed, the boys wolfed down a breakfast of cereal and toaster pastries, before Kurt headed out the door first.

"Nicky? Did you sleep with Kurt last night? You weren't in your bed…" Sharon asked.

"He asked me to, Mom…" Nicky replied.

"Is he okay, Nicky…Really?"

"I think he is still afraid that something bad will happen and make him have to leave…He asked me if I wanted him here and stuff…well, he didn't really ask that, but he said he takes you and dad away from me…stuff like that. I said that isn't how I feel about it, and he seemed to be better"

"Okay, thanks, Nicky….I think that should be brought up when he goes to therapy."

"Sure, Mom. I gotta get outta here."

"Yeah…Go! See you tomorrow night, Sweety." Sharon replied, kissing Nicky on the back of the head as she playfully shoved him out the door. Sharon had prepared a synopsis of observations regarding Kurt for the therapist he would be seeing next week, and got it out and began writing down what Nicky had just relayed to her.

Later that morning, Sharon stopped off at the county clerk's office and inquired about the forms required to petition the court for a legal name change. After briefly explaining the circumstances to the office staffer, Sharon was given a run-down of how the process worked, and a set of forms. That chore done, it was off to work, and the briefing of her colleague on her observations of Kurt.

After school, the boys found the van, with Jerry and Isaac in it, in the parking lot. They climbed in and noticed three other bug-out bags behind the rear seat. Soon, Timmy appeared, negotiating rows of parked cars making his way to the van.

He climbed in the van, and took a seat

"Hey dudes. Mr. Jarvis" Timmy said, taking Jerry's hand.

"Hi, Timmy." Jerry said, as he started the van as the boys fiddled with their belts and clicked in.

"Off to the high screw'll to pick Sean up." Isaac said. The boys giggled.

"Where is it, anyway?" Jerry asked.

"Make a left on the main drag, and another left onto Central." Isaac replied. Jerry nodded and they took off. Several minutes later, they pulled into the drive in front of the high school and spotted Sean standing on the bus stops looking around for them. Timmy slid the door open as Jerry pulled into a space, and stood on the door sill and waved and gesticulated at Sean, who did not see him in the chaotic parking lot.

"Geez, Mr. Jarvis, can we just run over him or something?" Timmy grumbled. Jerry and Isaac chuckled. "I'm gonna go get him." Timmy said as he left the vehicle and dodged teenagers eager to be anywhere else on Friday afternoon.

"Sean!…Christ on a crutch, dude. I was waving at you so hard I almost took off!" Timmy joked.

"Bullshit! You'd never fly loaded down with that cock of yours!" Sean snapped back and the boys cracked up in laughter. "So do Nicky and Kurt know what this trip is all about?" Sean asked.

"Nope. I guess they couldn't squeeze it out of Jerry either." They knew they couldn't get anything out of Isaac, so they didn't bother trying, figuring Nicky could get his Dad to spill the beans.

They got to the van and got comfortable in their seats, exchanged greetings with Sean all around and Jerry drove back onto the county road that led out of town. Most of the conversation was casual, but Timmy was seated directly behind Kurt, and put his hands on Kurt's shoulders and leaned forward to whisper in his ear.

"How are you doin?" Kurt turned toward Timmy's face and nodded.

"Better…It's better…If we get some time, can I talk to you some more?" Kurt asked.

"No" Timmy deadpanned. There was a long pause, then Timmy shook Kurt's shoulders and said

"Gotcha…you're so easy! We'll talk tonight once we get where we're going, promise."

"Okay, because I gotta ask you some stuff." Timmy squeezed Kurt's thin shoulders and sat back in his seat, turning to listen to Sean and Nicky going on about the latest pop culture. The boys had never been up this road, which crossed immense cotton fields and seemed to go on forever.

After two and a half hours of driving, Jerry pulled into the parking lot of a large motel next to a restaurant. The boys were hungry, and the odor of steaks coming out of the restaurant roof fans was enough to drive the group insane. Jerry said he would check in and get the room keys, if Isaac would take the boys and get a table in the restaurant. This met with instant approval from the teenagers and pre-teen, and Isaac was able to get a table for six without waiting. People were leaving the restaurant now, the Friday evening rush in this town had started about 5 o'clock and had ended a bit after 6:30.

"So what is this place, Isaac?" Sean asked.

"This sprawling metropolis is Schollenberg, Texas." Isaac answered. Venturing a bit further, Sean continued to probe.

"And just exactly what is in Schollenberg, Texas, that we came to see, or do or….whatever?" Sean pried.

"You'll find that out at five thirty in the morning, my young squire." Isaac said with a grin. "Wake up is at Four forty, so no staying up late tonight for us."

Jerry came in, found the table and sat down. He tossed a key with a plastic tag attached to it to Isaac, and said

"Okay, we have two rooms, four beds, and the rooms adjoin with a door between them that opens. That's a bed for me, one for Isaac, and you four ladies get to double up in the other two beds."

That met with general satisfaction. No one planned on being awake much once they heard how early Isaac was setting the alarm clock.

The boys ordered steak dinners with sides, and in about forty five minutes, the group headed next door to the motel. It was decided that they would swim for about an hour and then get some sleep. Jerry opened the door to the first room, and once inside, opened the pass door in the wall. Isaac and the boys brought the bags in from the van, and the boys lost no time stripping and changing into swimsuits. Jerry was pleasantly surprised to note that when nude, Nicky appeared to be the same age as the other boys, when in fact a three year difference existed. At least my kid won't be the one teased in the showers at school, he thought. This was the first time he had seen Nicky in the altogether after Sharon had forbidden nudity around the house, and puberty was well in swing for Nicky. It was also a wake-up for Jerry; his little boy was becoming a man, and childhood was coming to a close. This was also the only time Jerry had seen Kurt unclothed, even though he had been present for both boy's physicals. Everything about Kurt was slender and thin, so it did not surprise Jerry that Kurt's penis followed the same pattern.

They spent the next hour in the pool, which was inside an atrium. The enclosed space was warm and humid, and every one had a great time horsing around, swimming laps and dunking each other. Too soon, the hour was at an end and the party got out of the pool, toweled off most of the water, and made their way back to the rooms. All the boys were naked, having thrown their wet trunks over the curtain pole in the bathroom. After a quick vote, they decided to take their showers now, instead of in the morning. Nicky and Kurt doubled up in one shower, while Timmy and Sean took the other.

When they got out of the showers, the naked boys found their bags and put on briefs or shorts as per individual preference. Isaac and Jerry each took a bathroom and had a shower. When they got out and rejoined the crowd, the boys had voted to take the two beds in one room, and let Jerry and Isaac have the beds in the other room.

"I hope none of you four snore." Jerry said. "And we will leave the door open, so no staying up late…It's gonna be early out when we wake you guys."

"Can we watch TV until we fall asleep?" Nicky asked.

"Sure, for a little while." Jerry said.

Timmy nudged Kurt. "You wanted to talk about something earlier?"

Kurt nodded "Yeah, if you got a minute."

"Step into my office" Timmy grinned, making his way around the beds to the bathroom. Kurt followed Timmy into the small space, and sat on the closed toilet, while Timmy sat on the edge of the bathtub.

"What's up?"

"I want to change my name…I been thinking about it a lot and I'm pretty sure I'm gonna do it, but…well, we talked about adoption some too. I'm ….I don't know. I want to know what you think, I guess."

Timmy listened and considered his answer for a moment before he spoke.

"So what do you want to go by once you do the name change?"

"Kurt Gentry".

"Makes all the sense in the world to me, Kurt. It's only my opinion, but it should have been your name all along" Timmy said.

"That's why I want to change it…to turn back some of the stuff she did and stuff she shoulda done but didn't."

"Kurt, do it because it will fix a mistake… not to get back at your mom. That's just going back to the past."

"And I want to do it to respect my dad and grandpa…" Kurt said. Timmy nodded in approval.

"Do you want the Jarvis's to adopt you?"

"Well, I really love them and I'm happy being with them. Sharon says it's my choice, and there's no law or nothing that says I have to do it."

"Well, there is a bit of a process to go through. It took a while for mine. It won't happen just like that."

"But if I did it, no one could take me away. I heard other kids at school talk about foster care and getting jerked around from one place to another and how they never had a place of their own and stuff."

"I'm pretty sure Nicky would fight to the death before anyone dragged you away against your will."

"I know…Sometimes…um, I…"

"It's okay…go ahead…"

"Um, you know….You ever feel like the bottom is gonna fall out or something and you'll wake up back in the shit again? I'm still having nightmares sometimes. I don't think they know, I mean, like I hope they…well, maybe Nicky knows."

"I know what it's like, Kurt." Timmy said softly. "I had those for a while, even after Jack died, I still woke up some times scared out of my wits. Talking about it made it easier, and after a while it stopped."

"So…you think I'm being paranoid?" Kurt asked.

"I think the chances of something like that happening are lower than you do. I won't call you paranoid for thinking about it, but you'll drive yourself nuts if you live in fear of being taken away…Does that make sense?"

"Yeah, it does…a lot."

Just then, someone knocked on the door, and Kurt said "Come in!"

Nicky cracked the door and poked his head around the edge. Kurt giggled at the expression on the boy's face, seeing Kurt and Timmy sitting knee to knee in the bathroom in their underwear.

"We were all wondering what happened to you guys." Nicky said.

"Just having a little talk before bed. Do you need the bathroom?" Timmy asked.

"Naw, I'm good. Um, is everything all right?" Nicky asked, remembering what happened the last time Timmy and Kurt talked.

Kurt stood up, and stepped over to Nicky and gave him a big hug. "Everything's fine, little brother. We should all get to bed. Umm, is it okay if we switch things up tonight?"

"What do you mean?" Nicky asked.

"You sleep with Sean, and me with Timmy?" Kurt suggested. Nicky shrugged.

"I don't care…Sean, Timmy?" Nicky asked, craning his head out the bathroom door to get Sean's attention.

"You don't fart in bed, do ya, Nicky?" Sean cracked, causing the others to giggle.

"You probably wouldn't live through that, buddy!" Nicky teased.

"I guess its settled then!" Timmy quipped, and two pairs of boys pulled the bedding loose on the two beds, and got settled. After a few minutes, the lights were turned out and Sean and Nicky giggled and whispered for a few minutes. In the other bed, Kurt spooned up against Timmy's back and pulled him into his chest.

"Thanks for the talk, Timmy".

"Sure." Timmy whispered, rubbing Kurt's forearm and patting his wrist. The two friends fell asleep locked in their embrace. Sean and Nicky fell asleep back to back and were both lightly snoring in a few minutes.

Timmy lay awake for a few minutes feeling the heat of Kurt's thin body against his, and the boy's breath against the back of Timmy's neck. He lasted a few minutes longer than the others, but soon was sound asleep.

Twenty minutes to five arrived way too shortly to suit the boys, and butts were swatted and shoulders shaken to arouse the sleepy gaggle.

"Last one up gets the ice bucket dumped on them!" Jerry threatened.

"We're up! We're up! Nicky chirped, yawning.

"Ohhh, Goddd!" Sean croaked. "My mouth tastes like dinosaur shit…who wants to French?" he joked. He flipped back the covers, exposing his tented briefs. He stumbled out of bed and made quick work of the trip to the bathroom, aiming his nail at the bowl as Nicky arrived next to him and the boys stood together while their urine streams started.

"Gaaaaah!" they cried almost in unison as the wave of relief washed over them as their bladders emptied, and their youthful morning erections subsided. They brushed their teeth and came back out into the room to dress, as the ritual was repeated by Timmy and Kurt. This time it was Kurt who got the show as Timmy's cock began to piss at a ninety degree angle, easing up as his erection diminished.

Kurt watched the process progress as his own bladder emptied. "Wild!" he said, impressed.

Timmy grinned, flipped his member a few times to dislodge the last drips, pulled up his briefs, and turned to brush his teeth. Ten minutes later, everyone was dressed, the bags were packed back in the van, and the group made their way over to the restaurant for breakfast.

Once seated, the group continued to wake up, yawn and rub sleep out of their eyes, as the amused waitress took their orders.

Once the group ate, they piled into the van for a short drive across this very small town, and in the darkness they could make out lights on a large metal building next to railroad tracks. As they parked, a sign in Railroad Bastard Gothic font announced that they were at the Texas Pedernales and Pecos River Railroad Museum.

"Uh, it's really way too early to get here, ain't it? This place is closed, dudes." Sean muttered.

"Not if you're here to crew a steamer." Isaac replied. "It takes a while to get one of those bad boys going."

"What are you talking about? We're gonna what?" Nicky asked with excitement in his voice.

"Come, on, they are waiting on us, folks." Jerry said, as the boys exited the van. Jerry led the boys into the big building, walking along the tracks. As the boys entered the building, lights revealed number 765, a 4-6-2 steam locomotive, coupled to a ten wheel tender.

Built in 1919 by Baldwin, 765 was a survivor of an age where dieselization of the railroads in the early 1950's meant that most of the steam driven motive power had been scrapped. 765 had been retired in the early 60's and turned into a park monument. Later, she had been purchased by rail museum intent on saving her when the municipality that owned the park decided the hulk was an insurance liability. In 1992, several members of a non-profit historical preservation association agreed to underwrite a complete restoration of 765 if the Texas Pedernales and Pecos River Railroad Museum purchased her, and guaranteed to operate her for the enjoyment of the public. She was of a design often referred to as a Pacific type, as one customer early on for the type was the Missouri Pacific Railroad.

Jerry shouted into the building "Hello? Is Glen here?"

"Yo, be right with ya!" came a voice from the other end of the huge machine. Two men appeared in the dim, limited lighting of the building. One was a youngster in his late teens, and the other man was probably 40. They introduced themselves as Glen and Gene, father and son. Gene had been apprenticing as an engineer on 765, and Glen had run the engine since it became operable. Both had been involved in the restoration of the locomotive, and although young in years, Gene was a capable machinist and mechanic, having studied the craft at Glen's elbow.

"So y'all are going to crew with us today? Excellent…We got enough things to grease and oil for all y'alls!" Glen said, while Gene passed out a rag to each of their guests.

Jerry introduced himself, Isaac and the boys, although Isaac had talked to Glen on the phone a few weeks ago to set this up.

"Okay, we got a bunch to do before the trip today, so I'm gonna take three of ya on one side, and Gene will take three. But first we gotta look at the flues. Come with me." Glen led the group to the front of the locomotive, and he and Gene climbed on top the "cow catcher". Gene had a wrench in his overalls, and began to loosen the clamp nuts on the circular front door on the smoke box. When he finished, the front door swung open, and the boys could see nothing in the stygian black gloom. Glen switched on a powerful work light, and now they could see the steam trunk like an upside down Y, and the steam nozzle pointing up into the smoke stack. When the locomotive was running, the exhaust steam would belch from the nozzle, drafting air into the boiler and up the stack, with the familiar chuffing sound. Behind these details was a steel wall with what looked like hundreds of round holes. Gene got down from the perch, and motioned the boys to each climb up and look into the smoke box.

"I'm going to the cab" he said, and Glen nodded. A moment later they heard a clanking noise from the other end of the boiler, and could see Gene shining a light into the boiler from the other end, his light illuminating the flues. Gene and Glen checked each flue tube, looking for anything that spelled trouble, like bulges, leaks or cracks. Gene was scanning the walls of the boiler in the fire box, looking for leaks and broken stay bolts, and cracks in the sheets. Satisfied that there were no safety concerns, Gene climbed out of the firebox and rejoined the boys as Glen secured the smokebox door. Gene tossed the wrench to his father and waited for him to finish clamping the door.

Once this was done, Glen hooked up a shop air supply hose to the locomotive, and led the boys into the cab. The locomotive had been converted from coal to oil years before, and the tender had a lot of room for visitors to stand.

"Time to light Suzie Homemaker's EZ bake oven!" Glen said, as he cracked a valve and air hissed somewhere in the front of the locomotive. He had a small bucket with a stick and a rag soaked in diesel fuel in the corner of the cab. The reference to little girl's blue toy ovens caused Jerry and Isaac to chuckle, but went over the boy's heads as they were intent on what Gene was doing.

"What is that noise?" Nicky asked.

"That is the steam blower. You use that when you are stopped, and you have no steam going up the stack, so your fire can stay lit. Since we have no steam right now, we use shop air to keep a draft on our fire."

Glen paused to see if there were questions, then went on. "We left the boiler with water in it when we shut down last time, so we check the glasses, and make sure the cocks are open." Glen twisted some small valves on the sight gauge glasses to make sure that the water level in the glass was the true water level in the boiler. Satisfied that this was the case, he continued to explain a little about the glasses.

"If this glass should break, you have to close these fast. Probably still get badly burned." Glen said, and Gene nodded. "This glass and the pressure guage are the most important things to watch. Mainly the glass. You let the water get low and that can kill people and break things."

Gene turned a valve on the left or fireman's side of the cab, and air hissed in the tender.

"Gene's pressurizing the oil so it will flow into the boiler. I'm really sorry…I know you guys wanted to shovel tons and tons of coal all day today, but we won't be doing that. We burn oil nowadays, as its cheaper and easier to mess with than coal."

Glen chose Nicky to light the soaked rag, and opened the firebox door. "Just lay it in right there, son." Nicky did as instructed, and the flames on the rag flickered from the air being drawn into the furnace. Glen closed the fire box door, and cracked a valve to begin spraying oil into the firebox.

WWWUUUUURRRRRRRUUUUP! A loud wooshing noise ended by a thump announced the ignition of the fuel, and Glen adjusted the draft air and oil supply valves to maintain a bright white/ yellow flame in the firebox. Glen then gave the group a lesson on what the main things in the cab were, from the throttle laying horizontally across the top of the boiler back plate, to the reversing gear on the right side of the floor with its notched arches, the brake pedestal to the side of the reverser lever, and the boiler water controls on the left, or fireman's side of the cab.

Now it was time for the boys to earn their fare, and Gene and Glen put them to work, two boys on each side of the locomotive, one with an oil can, and one with a grease gun. Slowly the boys moved down each side of the giant machine, applying lubrication to all the exposed joints, pivots and bearings. They filled the automatic lubricator hoppers with oil, and the railroad men pointed out the cylinders, valve chest, reversing gear and air compressors packed along the side of the locomotive.

The boys asked questions about the locomotive and its history, but mainly expressed amazement when told how much things weighed, and how certain things were done during the restoration.

"So when will there be steam?" Sean asked.

"Been firing for an hour, so say another two hours." Gene replied.

"Seems like a long time." Kurt said.

"You're heatin' up eight thousand pounds a water, boys" Gene said. "Burning a couple hundred gallons of oil an hour doin' it. This ain't like cooking spaghetti or sumthin' on your stove at home." Grinning at their reactions, he suggested they go to the cab and check the water and pressure.

"When the water starts ta boilin' y'all will see the water move a little up and down in there…not much." Gene said, pointing at the sight glass. The pressure gauge had just moved a bit off the zero peg.

"So what pressure do you have to have to make it go?" Kurt asked.

"She'll move on 55 pounds if there ain't any cars hooked up, but she's rated at 180 pounds per square inch. We run her at 160. It's easier to get insurance and a boiler license if you de-rate."

"De-rate means?" Sean asked, not knowing what this was.

"Running at a lower limit than you can run at." Gene explained. "F'rinstance, we can go 45 mile an hour on these tracks, but we run the train at no more than thirty, so we don't tear up nothin."

Gene began to pour oil into a large brass device high on the boiler face, in the center of the cab. It looked like a jumping spider's face with myriad eyes, as it was studded with small circular sight glasses. Drips of oil could be seen in the sight glasses, floating slowly upwards.

The boys were fascinated with this piece of gear, and peppered Gene with questions.

"This here is the lubricator for the steam valves, and the cylinders. You got to oil them too, you know, just like you do in a car."

"So, the oil goes into the steam?" Timmy asked, having rejoined his friends in the cab.

"Yup, then up the stack."

"It's not regular motor oil, I take it?"

"Nah, it's made for steam service. Has to be able to stand the moisture and the heat. You know back in the old days they used tallow, which is animal fat. It would stand up to the steam."

Gene continued to give the boys an orientation of the controls in the cab, and after ten more minutes, there was enough pressure in the boiler that he decided to ask Timmy to crack a valve in what seemed like a disorganized mess of valves on the left side of the boiler.

"Just crack it and lean your head out the window, there. Look up just in front of the cab right in the middle…yeah, that's it. See the water spitting outta there?"

"Uh….yeah, I see it" Timmy replied.

"When the spittin' and steam stops, open that valve all the way up." Gene said as a low whine like a distant jet engine spooling up began to get louder and higher in frequency.

"Um, so what is that thing, Gene?" Sean asked, as the lights in the cab began to glow dimly, slowly getting brighter as the whine climbed in frequency.

"That is the generator that makes electricity for the train. It's a small steam turbine made by Pyle National. Drives an AC generator, like those ones that clip on a bicycle frame and run against the tire." Gene explained.

By this time the vapor had cleared, and Timmy opened the valve all the way as Gene had instructed. They went through the same process starting up the air compressor on the left side catwalk of the locomotive, to pressurize the train pipe. This was necessary to release the brakes.

"Why was it spitting and doing that?" Timmy asked.

"It was cold, and the steam you sent to it partially condensed into water…As the steam gave up its heat, the metal got hot enough that the water couldn't condense. We will do the same thing with the main cylinders when we start to move. Everything has to heat up first. Remember your science classes? Steam has energy and pressure because it contains heat."

The boys nodded, suddenly aware of the physics surrounding them. The cab lights were now on fully, and much more detail was visible. Outside the shop building, sunrise was just beginning, and the museum and rail tour would open in another hour and a half. Gene invited the boys to look at the cars, and check wheels and brakes with him, now that they could see without lights. They also looked 765 over again for leaks and obvious signs of trouble.

Glen looked out the window of the cab and yelled to Gene and the boys on the ground. "Mind the drain cocks!"

A second later, water and wet steam began to rush from the ends of the cylinders, a sight familiar to anyone who has seen a locomotive at a station platform in an old movie. The rush of condensing steam heated the cylinders so that they would be able to move the engine. If any liquid water were in the cylinders when the pistons moved, the incompressible water would split the cylinder or burst the head casting capping each end.

"OK…come on back up here, boys!" Glen called, as the boys climbed back up to the cab. When they had assembled, Glen continued.

"Sean, hop up in the seat, son. We're going to the water stand to fill the tender. Now, when I tell you, grab this lever, squeeze the latch and shove it forward all the way."

Sean nodded, and Glen said "Go ahead". Sean shoved the lever forward, closing the throttle all the way. It had been just cracked to admit steam to the cylinders, which were still heating, and the cocks were still open.

"OK…Now I want you to move this lever forward about a three fourths of the way." Glen instructed, pointing to the reversing lever to the left of the seat, on the floor. Sean gripped the latch, squeezed and pushed the lever as a hiss of air was heard.

"Whoa!" Sean replied, surprised at the noise.

"That's the power reverser, kinda like power brakes on your car. The valves are too heavy to shift by manpower alone, so there is an air assist."

"Ok, here we go. Grab the throttle, Sean and pop it back toward you about this much, until she begins to roll."

Sean grabbed the large throttle and gave it a quick tug as Gene had demonstrated, and very slowly, the old machine began to move ever so slightly.

"Give her another one, a bit more this time, son." Gene said, and Sean pulled a bit more throttle on. In a moment they were moving out of the building at a slow walk, and Sean grinned like he had just won the lottery. He looked around at the others and said

"I wish everybody at school could see this!"

"They will if you want…I'm getting pictures of all this." Jerry remarked.

765 was now moving into the morning light, and still blowing clouds of vapor along the track.

"Sean, push your throttle in about half-way." Glen said, and Sean moved the lever to almost close the flow of steam. There was still several hundred yards to cover to get to the water tank and stand, as they approached, Glen instructed the boys on how to brake. The brake control was a small lever on the top of a pedestal in front of and to the left of the seat. Moving the lever would drop the air pressure in what was called the train line, a pipe that ran the length of the train. Air pressure is required to keep the brakes off, so any leak or break in the system would set the brakes and hold the train until the problem was fixed.

"OK, Sean. Close your steam off all the way….Good. now pull the brake lever all the way, and let it back, keep doing that as she slows down….Yup, that's good. Um, you probably will undershoot the tower, let her coast…"

Glen watched as the spout on the water tank slowly seemed to move toward them, passing the smoke stack, then the cab.

"OK, brakes all the way on now, Sean." Again the air lines hissed and the spout came to rest just behind where the boys were standing on the tender.

"Awesome, Sean. Perfect landing for a first timer." Glen beamed, pumping the kids hand and slapping him on the back. Sean was so excited he looked like his skin would split.

"That was cool! Thanks!" Sean said, looking up at Glen.

"You're welcome, son!" Glen replied. "All right, who wants to climb the tower! I need a volunteer to open the tender too."

"I'll take the tower!" Timmy replied. Kurt said "I got the tender!"

"Righty then!...Kurt, you need to open that cover right there, and guide the spout over the opening, right? And Timmy, when you get up to the platform, I'll talk you through the next part."

"Yes, Sir" Timmy said as Kurt began to climb on the tender, and Timmy got down off the train and walked to the base of the water tank. A minute later both boys were in position, and Kurt had opened the water hatch on the tender.

"Timmy, swing the spout over to Kurt, then stay put. Kurt, when the spout is over the hole, pull the chain and lower it. Now there is going to be a hell of a lot of water moving, so watch that the tender doesn't overflow. See that rod inside the hole? Stop when the water gets to it. Just push the spout back up."

The tender had about a quarter of a tank of water left over from the previous run, and the boys quickly worked to drop the spout in the fill port. A huge deluge of water began and Kurt was surprised that the tank wasn't filling all that fast.

"How much water does this thing hold anyway?" Kurt asked.

"Thirty five hundred gallons." Glen replied.

"Like, how much is that in real life?" Kurt asked, and everyone chuckled.

"Fill that six times and that's a standard backyard inground swimming pool." Gene replied.

As the water got closer to the gauge rod, Kurt began to ready himself to pull the spout back up.

What he had not counted on was the inertia of the moving water in the spout, and when he finally got the pipe to move, water splashed all over the deck of the tender and partially soaked the would be fireman.

"Shit! That's cold!" Kurt yelled as his calves, ankles and shoes got soaked and everyone laughed.

"Ok, Timmy, swing it back over to you, then you're done up there." Glen called.

"I think Kurt has earned the chair this time!" Glen said, as Sean hopped off. "You can dry your shoes and socks on the boiler head."

Kurt bared his feet and took a seat as Glen showed him how to take the brakes off and get the machine moving, this time to the passenger platform. It was time to load the guests for the excursion.

Once the train had stopped at the platform, they had a few minutes to kill while the tourists and railfans boarded, and a railway employee came to the locomotive with two large ice chests on a cart, and shoved them up onto the cab platform.

"Lunch" Glen explained. "They'll get lobster, filet mignon, and caviar back in the coaches, and we have tuna and crackers up here."

The boys stared with a shocked look on their faces, while Gene, Isaac, and Jerry burst into laughter.

"Um, so really, what's in the coolers?" Nicky asked.

"We're just messin' with ya, kid. It's a pretty good lunch, no worries." Gene replied. "Besides that, we got plenty of train drivin' to do before lunch-time. Who's next in the seat?"

"Flip you for it, Nicky" Timmy said. Nicky stared Timmy in the eyes and said "Tails!"

"Gimme a quarter, Sean" Timmy barked.

"I ain't got any money." Sean replied.

Isaac rolled his eyes and reached in his pocket. "Here, and that's mine, by the way." He said as he handed Timmy the coin.

"What does that mean?" Timmy asked, faking hurt feelings.

"Uh, like remember the last time you flipped someone and kept my quarter…'cause I do!"

"Well, you obviously must have let me get away with that, right?" Timmy countered as Glen and Gene looked on in amusement.

"You two have words before y'all fell out?" Gene joked.

"Brat thinks he's a lawyer!" Isaac replied, getting a laugh from everyone.

Nicky won the coin toss and hopped in the seat, and soon it was time to go. Glen motioned to Timmy to pull on a chain running under the ceiling of the cab and the train whistled sounded. Timmy got into it and gave the chain several quick tugs and let up on it slowly, like a person bending a note on a guitar string.

"BOARRRD!" called a loud voice behind them, and Glen motioned for Nicky to hook up the reverser full forward and tug back on the throttle lever. He watched carefully to insure the wheels were not slipping, as the train began to move and gather speed as it left the platform.

"Nicky, as we go faster we are going to cut back on the reverser…come back about two notches."

Nicky complied, as Glen explained. "When we are standing still, we want the steam to flow almost the entire time the piston is moving. That makes power, but its very wasteful. We need to cut the steam off earlier for economy once the train is moving."

Glen motioned for Nicky to cut back on the reverser several more times until the lever was just off center, giving the cylinders the earliest cutoff possible for the power required.

The cylinders were now hot, so Gene showed Sean how to close the cocks and the hissing of steam ceased, replaced by rhythmic chuffing. The train was moving at 27 miles an hour and Sean, Timmy and Kurt were getting a lesson in managing the boiler water level, the job of the fireman on the left side of the cab. Glen relieved Nicky so the boy could watch the lesson. As the boiler water level fell, Gene had the boys open an injector valve, which allowed boiler steam to push cold water from the tender into the boiler. This made no sense to the boys; how could a device with no moving parts force water into a boiler against its own steam pressure? Gene just smiled and said

"Old time magic. Or is it the heat in the steam, and the density change when it condenses into water?....I forget." He teased. "Remember one thing…You can never let your water get below the level of the glass. Once that happens, you have to dowse the fires and start over, if you live through it."

"Why, um, like why couldn't you just add water and bring it back up?" Timmy asked.

"Awesome great question, Timmy. What happens when the water gets too low is that the top of the firebox, what we call the crown sheet, has no cooling and begins to overheat. So our intrepid fireman decides to open the injector, which blasts cold water into the boiler right on to our red hot crown sheet, it cracks and the boiler explodes…that is if it hasn't already sagged and given way, which means the boiler explodes."

"So if we screw anything up…" Timmy began

"THE BOILER EXPLODES" the other boys said in unison, and the adults chuckled.

"They're learnin'" Gene said.

For the next hour and a half, the boys kept busy watching Gene and Glen, and performed the tasks the railroaders asked them to do, as they each took turns at the engineer's seat and the fireman's station watching the water glasses, and the lubricator. Since Nicky had started the train, Sean took the seat to slow them down and stop the train at the tours mid-point. There they would stop for an hour to allow the passengers time to shop in a local tourist trap. Glen had the boys open valves for the steam blower to maintain the fire draft during the stop, then said that they were free to get off for a while as well, and the boys took the opportunity to stretch their legs and pee. They wandered around the station gift shop, but finding nothing of interest, soon returned to the engine cab, where Gene was laying out food from the coolers on a small blanket spread on the top of the tender. There was cold root beer, fried chicken, potato salad and slaw, pork and beans, green bean casserole, and rolls. It was a feast, and the boys dug in with gusto. When they were done eating, Gene took the boys on a walk up and down both sides of the train, to check the locomotive and cars for anything that might mean trouble. He showed the boys how to check for hot axle journal bearing boxes, which sometimes overheated and set cars on fire in the days before plain journal bearings were outlawed in the US, and Timken roller bearings were mandated. Since the Pedernales was an excursion line on a closed track and not connected to the US railway system, it had been granted an exemption from this rule. Meticulous care, occasional operation, and vastly superior modern lubricants kept the train in better repair than it had enjoyed at any earlier period of its lifetime.

Ten minutes before scheduled departure, Glen had Nicky and Sean open the cylinder cocks to preheat the cylinders, and clouds of steam hissed onto the tracks. When it was time, Kurt was tasked with ringing the bell to bring the passengers back to the cars. Once again, a loud "BOARRRD!" was heard from behind to tender, to let Glen know everyone was aboard that was going.

Kurt pulled the whistle cord and let a long blast go, before he set the reverser at full forward hook up, and pressurized the brake pipe. Hisses and sounds of the brakes releasing followed. He gave the throttle a sharp tug, as he had seen Nicky do, pulling it a bit further until the engine moved and the chuffing began. Kurt was busy pulling the reverser back as the other boys closed the blower and cylinder cocks, now that the engine was underway. Gene climbed down off the cab platform and stepped onto the ground and ran ahead of the locomotive to a track switch about fifty yards ahead of the train, which was moving at a slow walking pace. He reached the switch and hauled on a lever, which would cause the train to shunt off onto a loop which would turn the train around and send it back the way it came, in the opposite direction. He stood and watched as the train went by the switch and waited until it had passed him again. Glen had given Kurt a primer on stopping the train, and the boy already had the throttle closed and began braking when Glen, watching from the top of the tender, signaled that they had cleared the switch. Gene reset the switch and walked back to the cab and rejoined them.

"Timmy? You want to drive next?" Glen asked, and the boys traded places. Timmy had watched this process now a few times, and set himself to the task, whistle, brakes, reverser and throttle, and soon they were underway. Each of the boys took his turn for about ten minutes at a time at the fireman's station, watching the water level and pressure gauge.

During the trip back to the museum, Timmy asked Glen

"Where do you guys find parts for this engine and the cars and stuff?"

"Well, Timmy, a lot of stuff we find by talking to other folks in the steam train business, like other museums, and restorers. We also buy cars and parts of cars that come up for sale. The rest of what we need we have to make ourselves. We actually make items for other museums and railroaders too, which generates profits to help keep us going. There are still things you can get new, like flues and valves and plumbing fittings…stuff like that."

"How do you do that, make stuff I mean?"

"We have a pretty extensive machine shop back at the museum, and we can actually pour iron or brass castings up to 40 pounds in our foundry…we'll go through that and show you the whole deal."

"Okay, thanks." Timmy said

Glen reached out and patted Timmy on the shoulder. There was something different about this kid, he could tell. He could see something in Timmy's eyes that he had seen in Gene when the boy was very little. Gene had grown up on 765, had been witness to the entire restoration of the locomotive, in the beginning as a child, and as a helper as he got older. He had begun to learn machine shop skills at the age of eight, when it was felt that he was responsible enough to be safe around the equipment. By the time Gene was twelve, he was laying out jobs on his own and making parts on contracts to earn money for the shop.

Timmy's eyes were constantly busy checking everything out, trying to take in everything that went on. Glen could tell from the questions that Timmy asked that the boy wanted to understand the why of how things were done and made on 765, and not content to just move levers and open valves. At first, he feared boring his guests, and kept his answers to their questions broad and not overly technical, but Timmy often pressed with follow-ups that impressed Glen, so he began to elaborate a bit more, sometimes joined by Gene.

The entire 116 mile round trip, with the hour stop at the other end of the line had taken just over five hours, and they arrived back at the museum a few minutes after one in the afternoon. Gene and Glen showed the boys some of the tasks involved in laying up the locomotive until the next excursion, like blowing sediment out of the boiler and filling the tender with enough water to fill the boiler after it cooled.

A promised, the tour included the maintenance machine shop, and Isaac and Timmy were like kids in a candy store. The equipment was a mix of new and old, some the tools dated from the turn of the century, in contrast to the computer workstation, ultrasonic and magnetic particle inspection equipment, and camera probes that allowed inspection of the inside of the boiler shell.

Glen and Gene showed the boys the forge, crucibles and molding boxes that they used to make castings from wooden patterns.

After explaining the machine tools, and showing examples of what each machine was used for, Timmy had one last question.

"Glen, what would a person have to do if they wanted to learn how to do this stuff, you know, use these machines, and work on the train?"

"Well, if your high school has machine shop, take it. Then, you would enroll in a trade school once you graduate from high school and learn CNC programming nowadays."

"Well, my dad does that…um, I was talking about sooner than after high school, like here, at the museum, or something."

Glen was a bit surprised, when he caught what Timmy really meant.

"Oh, I see, I think. Are you asking me about coming here to volunteer…?"

"Yeah, exactly."

"Well, we never had anyone your age ask… And y'all are two, almost three hours down the road from here." Glen said, almost to himself, realizing that they would have to board Timmy if the boy was serious. "How old are you, son?"

"Thirteen, Sir"

"Well, um…If you're serious about this, and you'll give up part of your summer to do it, maybe we could work it out. You have to talk to your folks about this, of course."

"Sure, I understand."

"You say your dad is a CNC machinist?"

"Yes, Sir"

"He must have told you a bit about that sort of work, hasn't he?"

"Um, not really, I…it's….complicated."

"No need to explain, Timmy…You have them get back to me with an OK, and we'll make a plan, right?"

"Yes, Sir, thank you." Timmy said, shaking Glen's hand.

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