Forest Service Summer

by Backwoods Boy

Chapter 5

Wednesday, September 6, 1967

Labor Day weekend was over, and Logan, the last summer employee to leave, was packed and ready to go. He stopped by the office to say farewell to the permanent staff, and then made a stop at the dining hall to give Mary the last of his foot-tall, Smokey Bear stuffed toys.

"Mom and Dad sent these with me and said to give them out on special occasions. This would be one of those. Thanks for all the good food." He paused briefly to smile. "And the tip about the picnic spot below Sunset Point."

Mary gave him a hug and then held him at arm's length.

"Thank you, Logan. We never got to talk about your hike with Danny. I hope you made good use of that picnic spot."

Logan smiled reminiscently.

"No doubt about that, thanks to the lunch you wisely gave us."

Reaching into the refrigerator, Mary put two sandwiches, two apples, and a couple of fudge brownies into a paper bag and handed it to Logan.

"Speaking of lunch, here's something for the road. Will you be back next summer?"

"I'm planning on it, and I hope you will be too."

"The Lord willing, I'll be here."

Logan got in his pickup and took one last look around before he drove away. He'd enjoyed his summer job, but now he looked forward to a few days at home with his parents before heading to the university.

Logan had two stops to make. First, he pulled into Beaver Creek Campground. After walking to the river for a final look, he returned to campsite ten and sat at the picnic table, reflecting.

It had been a special summer. He and Danny had spent a lot of time together - hiking, floating the river, and even a three-day backpack into a nearby wilderness. All of it was unbelievably wonderful. He'd hoped it would never end. Now it had, and both of them needed to move on. He got into his pickup and headed down the road. He still had someone important to say goodbye to.

Logan entered the small town that served as the county seat and pulled up in front of Hazel and Harvey's modest home. He'd been there a number of times that summer, since it was now Danny's home too.

Danny sat on the porch steps waiting for him. Beside him sat the stuffed Smokey Bear that Logan had given him the evening after their hike to Sunset Point.

Danny no longer looked undernourished. A couple months of Hazel's home cooking had filled him out nicely.

Several changes had come to Danny's life soon after Logan met him. First, his brother beat him up for being gay, and got two years of free room and board at the county jail. A week later, his abusive mother went into alcohol rehab at the far end of the state. Danny moved in with Hazel and Harvey under the foster care program.

That, however, was only the beginning. It had taken a lot of effort on Hazel's part, mostly convincing Danny's mother and the court it was the best thing to do, but in the end she'd prevailed.

Now, less than a month after his eighteenth birthday, Logan was Danny's temporary guardian. Hazel was working on emancipated minor status for the younger boy when he turned sixteen in December. That all parties lived in the same state had helped immensely, as did Hazel's professional contacts in the county where Logan's university was located.

Sitting among his boxed-up belongings, a huge grin grew on Danny's face. Logan hopped out of his truck with a matching grin, and gave the younger boy a big hug.

"Ready to go?"

"Yeah, except I'll miss Hazel and Harvey."

"They'll visit us, and we'll be back next summer. My boss told me to expect a forestry tech position." He smiled. "And you'll be old enough to be the recreation assistant. I already put in a good word for you with the district ranger. As soon as they're accepting applications for next year, we'll put one in for you."


Hazel had put in a good word with the district ranger too. Logan smiled at the thought of that conversation, which he'd witnessed. In the world of government agencies, what Hazel wanted, Hazel got. Danny would be the recreation assistant as sure as the sun rose in the morning, but Logan and Hazel were keeping that to themselves for now. Danny stood up and grabbed one box and his stuffed bear.

"Hazel wants us to stop by her office. She has more paperwork for you to sign."

Logan gave Danny a kiss and put the other box on one shoulder.

"I couldn't leave without saying goodbye to Hazel." Grinning playfully, he put his free hand on Danny's shoulder. "You realize I now officially own you."

Danny smiled. "Hazel says that's only until I'm emancipated. Then she said that you gotta renegotiate the contract."

Logan laughed. "I doubt if that'll be a problem."

The stop at the courthouse took only a few minutes. Logan signed the last of the paperwork and Hazel notarized it. Then she closed the door to her office.

"I can't say goodbye to my grandsons properly in public."

With tears in her eyes, she hugged them both, lingering longer with Danny. As they all wiped away their tears, Hazel looked directly at Logan.

"You take good care of him, you hear?"

It was an order, and Logan knew there would be hell to pay if he didn't. He gave her another hug, and his voice broke as he replied.

"Danny is my life, Hazel. No one will ever hurt him again. I promise."

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