Forest Service Summer

by Backwoods Boy

Chapter 4

Thursday, July 6, 1967

Logan crawled out of the tent and stretched. Realizing he was not only naked but also in full sight of Hazel, he reached into the tent and grabbed his shorts. Pulling them on, he wandered over to the picnic table where his hostess was drinking a cup of coffee. She smiled at him as he sat down across from her.

"Good morning, sunshine. Nice exhibition you put on there. I'd like a wall poster of what I saw. Want a cup of coffee?"

"I'd love some coffee. Sorry about the show."

She chuckled. "Bullshit. You're not sorry at all."

Hazel poured a cup from the percolator on the Coleman stove and set it in front of him.

"Bacon and eggs will be along shortly. I was waiting for you and Danny to wake up."

"I suppose Harvey left a long time ago."

"About six. They start early." She paused. "You two made a fair amount of noise, but probably not enough to disturb the other campers. I think Harvey slept through it. Not that he'd have cared any more than I did."

Logan looked up quickly. Hazel's grin and the twinkle in her eyes told him he wasn't in trouble. She continued.

"From the sounds I heard, I think Danny had a good time."

"Yeah, he did." Logan smiled reminiscently. "I did too."

Hazel set down her cup. "We've known Danny for a long time. His home life isn't the best. His father died in an auto accident. His mom's an abusive alcoholic, and he has an older brother who's a homophobe. All that doesn't make for a good living environment. We include him in our lives as much as possible. He's more of a grandson than a neighbor. We were pleased when he took a liking to you. He needs someone to show him that he's not the only one and that it's okay to be himself."

Logan paused to absorb what he'd been told. "Thanks for the background. He's a great kid - well, he's two years younger so I guess I can call him that. We had fun last night, but we had a lot of fun yesterday too. I like him a lot." He paused. "Can I take him hiking today? I thought we'd go up to Sunset Point. The view is fantastic from there."

"Sure. He'd love that."

The sound of the tent flap announced Danny was up. He staggered to the table. Sitting down next to Logan, he leaned his head against the older boy's shoulder. Logan put an arm around him.

"You okay this morning, buddy?"

Danny smiled happily. "Very okay. Except it hurts to sit down."

Logan laughed. "Hazel knows what we did."

Danny responded without moving. "Of course she does. I told her what I hoped would happen if you stayed. I don't keep secrets from her and Harvey."

Logan set down his coffee cup and looked across the table.

"Now that I think about it, we had a little encouragement dropped in a playing card box. Do you happen to know anything about that?"

Hazel laughed. "The Lord works in mysterious ways." She turned her attention to the younger boy. "How was it?"

Danny had a dreamy look in his eyes. "It was perfect."

Logan ruffled his hair. "Hazel says we can go on a hike after breakfast if you want to."

Danny sat up straight. The smile turned into a broad grin. "I want to."

It was mid-morning before Logan and Danny drove out of the campground. The trailhead was next to the work center, so Logan parked in his usual place next to the dormitory. Shutting off the engine, he turned to Danny.

"There's someone here who'd like to see you."

Danny looked puzzled.

"The only person I know here is you."

Logan smiled knowingly. "I don't think so."

Mary had seen them coming, and the cookies and lemonade were set out on one of the tables. Danny took one look at the operator of the dining hall and let out a squeal of excitement.

"Mrs. Williams!"

Their shared hug lasted a long time, and when they were done, Danny wiped tears from his eyes. Obviously, Mary had been a memorable teacher. Danny was still holding her hand.

"I missed you after you retired from teaching."

Mary chuckled. "Please call me Mary, like the boys here do. I haven't really retired. Now I teach these big lugs like Logan proper manners." She smiled at Logan "Like wearing shirts in the dining hall."

Logan grimaced. "Sorry, Mary. I should have gotten a couple from my room."

Mary winked at him. "For you two, I'll make an exception."

She fetched her perpetual cup of coffee, and the three of them sat down at the table.

"Are you going hiking today?"

Danny grinned at her. "Yeah. Wanna come with us?"

Mary laughed. "I'd love to, but I have to work." Her eyes twinkled. "Is Logan taking good care of you?"

Smiling happily, Danny reached for a cookie with one hand, and Logan's hand with the other.

"He's taking real good care of me."

"I'm glad to hear that. I was sure you'd learn that you had a lot in common."

Slightly overwhelmed, Logan was silently going with the flow. Mary looked in his direction.

"Teachers learn a lot about their students by careful observation. They don't leave that skill behind when they retire." She smiled. "But they are also discreet."

While Danny chatted happily with Mary, Logan ate two or three cookies and considered what he'd learned. He'd kept his sexual orientation to himself, so far as he knew, but Mary was onto him. He remembered a teacher from high school who was like that - the friend of the disenfranchised. Teachers like that were few and far between, but essential to the lives of their students. His attention returned to the present when Mary turned to address him.

"At the last switchback before the lookout tower, keep going straight. There's not much of a trail, but there's a great view at the end. Out of sight of the tower, by the way."

Logan smiled. "Thanks, Mary, we'll take your advice."

Mary stood up and opened the big, stainless-steel refrigerator behind the serving counter. Pulling out two sandwiches from the stack she always kept available for lunches, she put them in a paper bag along with two oranges and a couple of fudge brownies. Returning to the table, she handed the bag to Danny.

"Logan may be taking good care of you, but I bet he didn't think about lunch."

Logan protested. "We'll be back to the campsite by noon."

Mary smiled knowingly. "I doubt it."

Though recreational use was becoming more common, the Sunset Point trail existed primarily to access and supply the lookout. Logan and Carl sometimes used it for early-morning conditioning. With a smooth, even surface and a consistent, moderate slope, it was great for trail running. Today, Logan and Danny took a more leisurely pace, enjoying the day and each other's company. During the casual conversation, Logan learned more about Danny.

"So, tell me about Mary... Mrs. Williams."

"She was the coolest teacher I ever had, and the only one who really understood me. She retired the next year, and I hadn't seen her since."

"I had a teacher like that once, in high school. Were there other boys like yourself in her class?"

"One, I think now, because she spent a lot of extra time with him too. I was never sure, though, and he moved away."

"How about now?"

"If there are, they're as secretive as I am. My mom probably guesses, and my brother calls me a faggot, but I've never really told them. Before you, Hazel and Harvey were the only ones I talked to about it."

Logan turned his head so he could make eye contact.

"Hazel and Harvey are great. You don't find people like that very often. You're lucky to know them."

Danny smiled softly. "I know... and now I'm lucky to know you too."

At the last switchback, with the tower now in sight above, Logan found a faint trail that continued north and quickly joined the top of the ridge. In about a half mile they came out of the woods into a clearing. The view was fantastic. That was why the lookout tower was up there above them - the whole northern half of the district was visible. Logan could see the location of the fire he and Gary had put out - about two miles away at the end of the ridge. From the convoluted drive it took to get there, he hadn't realized it was this close.

As Mary had advised, the tower was out of sight behind a rise in the ridge. The boys dropped down to sit in a small grassy meadow where the ridge leveled out for a short distance. Logan wondered briefly how Mary had found this place. He smiled as he pictured her there with her future husband. Having a picnic on a blanket, perhaps?

Leaning back on his elbows, he looked at Danny sitting beside him, gazing peacefully into the distance. And maybe gazing into the future too. Sensing Logan's eyes on him, Danny turned and smiled softly.

"I've never been so happy."

Logan took his hand. "Same here."

Danny's eyes clouded slightly and his smile faded.

"We're going back to town tomorrow. Will I ever see you again?"

"You tell me where you live and I'll come see you next week on my days off. We can go hiking again, or I can bring you out for another float trip."

Danny's mood brightened visibly.

"Could you and I camp out overnight?"

"If I can borrow a few things from Hazel and Harvey."

The smile returned. "Cool! We better meet at their place too."

Logan hadn't thought that far.

"Right. We'll talk with Hazel when we get back about how to go about it. What about your mom and brother? Will it be a problem for you and me to do things together?"

"They never pay any attention to what I do. I could disappear forever and they wouldn't know or care."

Though delivered matter-of-factly, this was a sad self-analysis about Danny's life. Logan squeezed the younger boy's hand.

"But Hazel and Harvey would. They love you. And so do I."

Danny didn't miss the last part.

"I love you too, Logan. What are we gonna do at the end of the summer?"

"We'll just have to wait and see what happens."

Danny pushed Logan onto his back and climbed on top of him with a grin.

"Can we do it again here?"

"I didn't bring the lube. It's in the tent."

Danny grinned mischievously.

"No, it's not. It's in my pocket."

Logan laughed out loud.

"Why am I not surprised? Yes, but only once. After last night, we don't want to overdo it."

Danny leaned down and kissed Logan on the lips.

"Maybe twice?"

Logan ran his fingers through the younger boy's hair.

"Maybe. Thanks to Mary, we've got all day."

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