Kaiser's Rodeo

by Bensiamin

Chapter 3

"Well, I don't know if I'd call it a proposition. That sounds too much like a business deal or something that happens in the red-light district, don't you think?"

"Dad!" Michael's mom stood as she made her point and said, "Why don't you guys clear the table and then head back into the family room to discuss your proposal? I'll clean up and we'll have dessert in there in a little while."

Grandpa grinned and then winked at the boys. He looked at Roger and Jerrod and said, "It's probably time to take Chloe out to do her business. You guys go take the dogs out, then join us in the family room." He turned to his son and said, "You got another cold one in the fridge?"

Michael's dad nodded and said, "I'll get us both another and meet you there."

Both men were settled in their chairs when the boys were done helping clear the table and returned from walking the dogs outside. They settled down in pairs and looked expectantly at the adults.

"Well, Dad, you better fill them in. This is your idea!"

"Sure is, and I'm happy to. First, I have to say to Roger and Jerrod that it's too bad you boys have to leave tomorrow. It'd be a pleasure to have you around for the summer, and you'd be a good influence on these two!" He grinned at them, and then looked over at Michael and Nate.

"So, here's the deal. You've got most of the summer ahead of you. I'm guessing if Nate hadn't needed surgery and was back in Portland, he'd be playing baseball for a lot of the summer, right?"

"Yeah, I mean, you know summer is major league baseball season. We'd usually start playing in March and the season ran through August. Meaning, it'd start off slow and then build over the summer with more games and then tournaments and stuff. But I'm missing the whole season this year."

"That's pretty much what I figured. Now, you boys will be wondering why I'm caring about baseball all of a sudden. I'm really not. Not focused on baseball, I mean. What I am focused on is that not only is Nate recovering, but he won't have baseball to focus on. Meanwhile Michael here, he's a new person who's out of his shell and no longer the shy boy who's trying to find his way. So, what are they going to do this summer? They'll have chores to do, and there'll be some work around the ranch, and I've got some things they can do for me at my place, but it seems to me that they need a project."

"What?" Michael added, "A project?" Nate was silent, still trying to figure out where the conversation was going.

Jerrod started giggling. "You mean a project to fill in the rest of the time to kind of keep them busy all the time. Kind of like having a full-time job or something?"

Grandpa grinned at him and said softly, "Something like that."

He looked over at Michael and Nate and said, "What'a ya think boys? Am I offending your sensibilities?"

"Well, no," Michael said, "but I guess it would help if we knew what you were talking about." He looked at his dad for help, but the man just smiled and raised his hands as if to say, 'I'm not part of this.'

"Well, here's what I'm thinking," Grandpa continued." You two need to get around the place to check on the cattle, move them from pasture to pasture, turn the water, do chores and stuff. It's too soon for Nate to get on a horse, like we said, and we can't risk an accident teaching him how to ride either. The same goes for getting both of you ATVs. Accidents happen, and it takes a while to get competent riding those infernal machines… or so I'm told."

"Grandpa," Michael said, "where is this going?"

He grinned wickedly at his grandson, then looked at Nate. "Well, you may not recall, but I've got a pile of things stored in the barn out behind my house."

"Yeah. What do you want us to do? Clean up your barn this summer?"

"Now that's a damned good idea. I'm betting your mother would like that one. Especially if half the stuff I've got in my barn got thrown away! But no. That's not what I've got in mind. You boys need a project and a way to get around the ranch safely and a way to have fun. So, you may have forgotten, Michael, but in the back of my barn is a 1970 Scout. I'm thinking you boys should get it fixed up and you'll have a set of wheels to cruise around the ranch, do your chores and who knows what all else."

"Have I ever seen that Scout? Do I even know what it is?"

"I don't know, boy. You'll have to tell me." Grandpa looked at Michael's dad and asked, "Has he ever seen the Scout?"

"I don't know. It doesn't seem like it. You'd think he'd remember." He turned to his son and said, "The Scout was the earliest four-wheel drive rig after the Jeep. It came out in the '60s. The one dad has is an 800A. A two door with a removable white top. Does that ring any bells?"

Michael shook his head. "No, I don't think so. I think I'd have remembered that." He looked at Nate and asked, "What do you think?"

"I don't know what to think. I don't even know what it is."

"Well," Michael's dad continued, "they're called SUVs or sport utility vehicles these days, like Jerrod's Jeep Cherokee, or… Jerrod, didn't you tell me that Jackson has a Dodge Durango?"

Jerrod nodded, and Michael's dad continued. "Same thing. That's another SUV. Here's the deal, though, this is a pretty basic and real early model. It needs some work. New tires for sure, oil change and tune up and a general clean up. Then we find out if there are other problems. Your grandpa bought it kind of on a lark, thinking the top could come off and it'd work kind of like a pickup, and then in the winter the top could go on and it'd be an all-around kind of vehicle."

He grinned. "Well, it didn't work out quite that way. The bed behind the seats is a lot smaller than a pickup, and it was hard to keep warm inside that thing in our winters 'cause the fiberglass top isn't insulated. I remember freezing my butt off in there when I was a kid. However, in the summer, with the top off and the rig open to the sky, it's a pretty awesome way to get around, At least, that's the way I remember it. Your grandpa put it away in the barn when I was in college. Anyway, like I said, it needs some work, but we'll help you and that'd give you boys a set of wheels for the summer."

The question was hanging in the air, and finally grandpa said, "Well boys, what do you think?"

Michael and Nate exchanged glances and then looked at Jerrod, who said, "It's a thirty year old four wheel drive. That's the same year as Jackson's Challenger. What's not to like about this deal?"

Just them Michael's mom walked in with dessert, a tray with plates holding a piece of cherry pie and a half gallon of vanilla ice cream. "That car talk will just have to wait, or this ice cream's going to melt. Roger, will you help me serve these up?"

Roger jumped up and started scooping ice cream, and Jerrod passed the dessert plates around. By the time most of the dessert was consumed they were ready to talk again.

Michael turned to his mom. "Did you know anything about this deal with the Scout?"

She looked at him wide-eyed. "I did not. This is some plot between your grandpa and your dad. I don't know anything about it, but so far it sounds to me like a good idea. I mean, Nate's got to keep the fall risks low until he's fully healed, and you two get a shared project. And assuming it hasn't turned into a pile of rust in that old barn, you may get a drivable vehicle out of it. That would make the summer fun, wouldn't it? Not just for doing ranch work, but maybe even going camping or whatnot."

Michael smiled at her, appreciating her support and then turned back to the two old men. "Okay, you guys. What's the rest of the story. Will it even start? Can it be driven safely? I mean, we're not going to kill ourselves or anything, are we?" He looked at Nate and grinned, wiggling his eyebrows just like Jerrod did.

"Well, funny you should ask that," Grandpa replied. "I don't know if it'll start. I figure we won't know the answer to that question till we put a new battery in it, make sure it's got clean fuel, that the plugs aren't fouled. You boys know, a few details like that."

"That's the problem, Grandpa. I don't know," Michael said. "I'm no mechanic." He looked at Nate. "What do you know about this stuff?"

Nate looked a little befuddled, flashed a glance at Jerrod and then said, "I know less than Jerrod. I guess I could figure out how to change the oil, though."

Michael's dad laughed out loud. "Well, Nate, that's a start. It's not enough though. So, here's the deal. We'll spend a little time on it in the morning and see what we can figure out. Then a friend of mine who's a mechanic in town is coming out here in the afternoon. I've told him the whole story, and he thinks it kind of a worthwhile deal. He's really glad that dad kept the Scout and it's in original condition, and we agreed he'd work with us to make sure it's safe and reliable. Those are the number one goals. It's got to start when you need it to, and it's got to stop when you need it to as well. That means we've got to go through the fuel system and the electrical system to make sure it'll start. The stopping part means we've got to make sure the hydraulic system is working properly so the brakes are dependable. It's stuff like that. I know about them, but I'm not a mechanic, so I don't know how to do the work. But Jerry does, and he'll be here in the afternoon. He's bringing a new battery and hydraulic fluid."

"Wow! You guys really planned this out," Jerrod interjected as he put his empty dessert plate down. "You know though," and here he turned to Michael and Nate, "when Jackson's dad brought him down the Challenger do you what had happened before? Did Jackson ever tell you?"

Michael and Nate shook their head. "Well, his grandpa had a Chrysler and got to the point he couldn't drive any more, and he wanted to give the car to Jackson, so he'd have wheels. Jackson's dad knew he wouldn't want a big sedan, so he looked around and then did a deal and traded the sedan in on the Challenger. Then he had a mechanic go through the Challenger to make sure it was safe and reliable, and then drove it down to Portland to give it to Jackson. Sound familiar?"

"Wow! Dad, did you or grandpa know this," Michael asked, looking between them?

"No idea. This was dad's idea, not mine. You get to blame him, not me." He looked at his father and grinned.

Michael looked at Jerrod and Roger with a smile on his face, then looked to Nate and asked, "What do you think?"

He grinned in response and then looked at grandpa and said, "To quote the great Yogi Berra, 'it's déjà vu all over again!' That's all I've got to say."

Grandpa had finished his dessert and settled back in his chair and just said, "Life is full of mysteries, isn't it? So, what do you think? You boys ready to take a project like this on? You up for the work? For getting greasy and crawling around on the ground under it. We'll cover the up-front expenses to get this thing going, but after that you get to pay for it. I mean gas and maintenance and things like that."

Michael and Nate were holding hands and glanced at each other quickly, then Michael said, "You bet. This is totally outrageous. Thanks Grandpa, and you, too, Dad. This could make it the coolest summer ever."

The conversation turned to Jerrod and Roger's summer and how the starting to work in different hospitals with Kaiser had been going. They both said in a way they missed the focus on child patients at Doernbecher, but knew they were getting great experience and already broadening their horizons by spending time with older patients.

Grandpa grinned. "You mean you're developing sympathy for old timers like me who might benefit from a little therapy time with a dog."

"Well, no, Grandpa," Roger started, "it's just that we'd only worked with children last year, so we didn't understand that adults have pretty much the same needs and get the same benefits."

The conversation turned to starting college and their likely course work, and it wasn't long before a few yawns appeared, and Michael hinted they should head down to his room. The dogs all got one last walk, and when they said goodnight to the adults, Michael's mom asked about the puppy.

"Not to worry. We've got Kaiser's old wire crate set up, where she'll sleep with us and Kaiser. One of us will wake up around 2:00 am and take her out for a few minutes. We've got her on a 'no longer than four hours routine,' and it's working pretty well so far."

They left it that they'd all check out the Scout after breakfast, then take a swim before Jerrod and Roger headed back to Portland. When they got down to Michael's room, they all kind of piled onto the double bed with Chloe in the middle. Kaiser watched patiently from the floor, then curled up keeping an eye on what was going on.

"I don't know what you guys think, but that was a pretty amazing series of things that just happened tonight, don't you think?" Jerrod looked at Michael and continued, "Did you know any of this was coming?"

"What? No. Grandpa completely caught me off guard on all of it. From teasing me about Nate being my boyfriend to getting him outfitted with Wranglers and stuff, and then the Scout." He shook his head but was smiling.

"He turns out to be extra cool, it seems to me," Roger commented. "There's been some planning going on before we all got here."

"That's for sure. I mean even having his mechanic friend coming over tomorrow afternoon." He looked at Nate and asked, "What do you think?"

"I think I'm amazed. Like it dawned on me when your grandpa was doing that 'don't let the door hit you in the ass' bit that I was somehow part of the family, and I was being invited into the give and take, and then it just got better and better. I'm still going to pay some of the bill for the clothes though. It's only fair, right?"

Michael smiled and stroked his cheek, "If that's what you want to do. You don't have to, but I understand. We just won't tell Grandpa 'cause he'll figure his generosity is being questioned, or something."

"Speaking of generosity, what about the Scout," Jerrod asked. "Have you even ever seen it?"

"Not really. Now that I've had time to think about it, I knew it was there, in the back of his barn. It's got a cover over it, so that's all I've seen. I've heard them talk about it, you know, dad driving around in it in high school and stuff. And grandpa saying it was going to be mine someday, stuff like that. But I've never seen what it looks like under that cover."

"I bet it's dirty and going to need a lot of cleaning and stuff," Nate said.

"Yeah, and that'll be on top of any mechanical work. Makes me already think I should have taken an auto mechanics course, you know! I hope the mice haven't pulled all the upholstery out of the seats and stuff. If it's even close to what dad said, it oughta be in pretty good shape. Well, decent shape, anyway." He looked at Nate, "I guess we can do the basic stuff, and get help with anything else."

"Maybe your grandpa knows more than he lets on. He grew up on a ranch before they had fancy cars and auto parts stores and the internet. I bet he knows a lot more than he's letting on," Nate said.

Roger started giggling. "I bet you are so right. Meaning this is as much a project for him as it is for you two. It'll be really neat, and I can see you guys already, tooling around the countryside with the top off, getting sunburned, but all sexy looking." He paused and looked at them deviously, and then went on. "Since your mom made it pretty clear there shouldn't be any heavy sex in the house, I guess you'll have to keep a sleeping bag and some kind of pad in the back so you can get it on when you're out and about by yourselves."

They all laughed, and Jerrod added, "I can already see regular overnight camping trips with lots of sex!" Michael was smiling widely, and Nate was too, but also a little flustered.

"Relax, Nate," Roger said softly. "We're just giving you a bad time. And, by the way, don't tell me you're not thinking about it. Remember we talked about some of it on the drive up?"

"You talked about what?" Michael sat up as he asked.

"Well, we caught him day-dreaming about the times you two had at the beach last month, and we didn't grill him for all the details, and he wasn't divulging any deep secrets, but we got a pretty good idea what happened. And we think it's great, right Jerrod?"

Jerrod grinned and nodded. "Yep, sure do." He looked at Nate. "One difference is that Michael knows he's gay and has had a little more experience than you. We know you're still a little embarrassed about it, but you've got to work on getting over that. You've got to be able to talk about it. Like David told them when he was here, we all grew up in sex avoidant households, so it's hard to relearn and feel positive and natural talking about sex and your bodies. But you've got to learn. And you will."

He looked at Michael. "You've got all the gear, right?" Lube and all the rest?"

Michael nodded and grinned. Jerrod went on, looking at Nate. "Being clean and healthy and being prepared is important for both people. You'll learn more about that reading the book. Can I give you one example? I mean, I'm not trying to embarrass you or turn this into a sex ed class, but I think it's important."

Nate nodded and said, "Sure. You guys are like my other big brothers."

"Cool. So, when we first started sleeping together we'd only done oral, and that first night David and Jackson gave us a copy of The Joy of Gay Sex , and had already put condoms and lube and an enema bulb in my room."

"Whoa!" Nate was kind of wide-eyed, but smiling.

"Yeah, it was very cool. And they'd talked to Roger's parents just like Michael's mom told us tonight that she's talked to your mom. So, everyone was on the same page and there were ground rules, okay?"

Nate nodded.

"So, here's what I wanted to say to you. When we saw that stuff, we were jazzed that they were that hip and cared that much, you know what I mean?" He paused watching Michael and Nate. Then he went on, "but in the back of my mind I'm thinking, enema bulb, lube, condoms… like does that mean we're supposed to have anal sex tonight, first thing?" He looked at Roger, and said, "Right?"

"Yeah. You didn't tell me till later that's what you were thinking, and I was kind of, too. But when we talked about it, we realized that neither of us were ready, and they were just making sure we had what we needed for whenever we were." He grinned at Jerrod and added, "And, that wasn't too long, was it?"

Jerrod grinned back and then looked at Nate. "But here's the thing. You guys don't have to do anything you don't want to. You do what you decide you want to do when you're ready to do it, that's all. We all know Michael's a little ahead of you, and that's cool. You two just need to be able to be open and talk about it. So, anyway, about the lube and condoms and stuff, my mind immediately went to the extreme. As in thinking they've given us this stuff because they expect us to fuck tonight. Turns out that's not what they were doing at all. They just wanted us to be ready for if and when."

"And," Roger added, "I was kind of thinking the same thing 'cause of the enema bulb… you know clean out your ass before you get fucked, right?" He paused and made sure Nate was following what he was saying, then went on. "After we talked about it, though, it dawned on us that being clean is part of being healthy. Meaning we didn't do anal for a while, but what it didn't take us long to figure out is that when you give your boyfriend a blowjob, it's amazingly more intense for him if you're massaging his prostate, and a clean ass is kind of nice to make that happen. See what we're saying."

Michael lifted Nate's hand and kissed the back of it. "No pressure, no rush… for anything, okay? We had a great time at the beach, and if it never goes further than that, it's okay by me." He paused and grinned at Nate with his eyes twinkling. "But now that the thoughts in my mind, the idea of massaging your prostate while I give you a blowjob sounds pretty righteous to me! What'ya think?"

"Geez, you guys. Lighten up, will you!" Nate paused and then smiled, looking at each of them. "I'm still sorting this all out, like you said. I'm also getting used to being with a boy… with Michael… and with the sex stuff. Like I told you two today, what we did at the beach was beyond what I knew was possible and I never thought anything could feel so good. But I'm still working on being this open about it, you know."

"Nate, I know what you're saying but you've got to do this, I mean get past any hang ups, for you and for Michael. We all know you were in a circle jerk with us and Matt, so after that we can talk about anything. Anyway, the point isn't that we're trying to put you on the spot or tell you guys what to do. Just encourage you and tell you we're here for you. We were in the same place, starting out together about a year ago, so just know we're only a phone call away, alright? That's what we mean."

"Well, that and have fun," Jerrod added, his eyebrows wiggling lasciviously above a huge grin.

"And tone it down in the house. Remember, for us if we got carried away, we were living with two gay guys. It's going to be different here, so keep that in mind."

"I think it's so cool that your grandpa is doing the deal with the Scout," Jerrod added, changing the subject. "I'm betting you'll have a ton of fun doing that. Jackson's older brother, Gary, has a 1964 International pickup truck that he used to start his landscaping business. He still has it. It's kind of his vintage project truck. He told me that International stopped making pickup trucks in the late '70's, and I'm betting they stopped making the Scout about that time, too, so getting parts might be hard. I'll call him when we get back and ask him where he gets stuff."

They talked about other things for a while and then Roger softly said, "Why don't we take the dogs for their last pee walk, and we'll let these guys go to bed… together!" He wiggled his eyebrows and laughed.

When they got back and had said goodnight and settled Kaiser and Chloe down for the night, Jerrod asked, "Do you think we pushed too far with Nate tonight?"

"No, actually I don't," Roger replied, "'cause he already got a ton of new information from Michael's parents, so what we were telling him about sex was just frosting on the cake. Anyway, sooner or later he'd have to get the info, so I figure sooner is better." He reached into the pocket of his shorts that were on the floor and said, "Toss you for who takes Chloe out at 2:00 am. Heads or tails?"

With that settled, he nuzzled up against his boyfriend in his bed. "These twin beds are even smaller than the bed in the cabin of the sailboat your dad rented, aren't they? Good thing they're together this time."

Jerrod nodded and kissed his forehead. "What have you got in mind, big boy?"

"Well, last time we were here we proved that it's possible to do a very successful sixty-nine in a twin bed. I'm thinking we should do it again!"

Jerrod pulled him close for a passionate kiss.

Nate woke the next morning partially because of the early morning light starting to come through the curtains over the window, and partially because he'd heard a door click. He looked at the clock on Michael's bedside table and saw it was just after 6:00 o'clock and figured what he'd heard was either Jerrod or Roger taking Chloe out first thing. The it dawned on him how happy and peaceful and content he felt. He was laying on his side, spooned back into Michael who had an arm draped over his waist. He loved the feeling. The feeling of warmth and connection. Of being loved and held. His mind spun. There was that word again. Love. Last night he'd been kidded about he and Michael being boyfriends, and in a way, he really didn't mind, because he felt more for Michael than he'd ever felt for anyone. He thought maybe it was love, for sure he liked him more than he'd ever 'liked' anyone.

But love was still kind of scary. He knew he wasn't gay… at least he was pretty sure. He'd only dated a few girls, so he didn't have a lot of experience just like Jerrod had said to him last night, but to be loved, to love back… to be in love… didn't that mean something completely different when the other person was a boy. He'd been kicking the issues around in his head since the weekend at the beach and hadn't come to a clear answer. He felt Michael's breath on the back of his neck and smiled deeply to himself. Waking up this way was wonderful… and he had a summer's worth of it ahead of him.

As he felt himself falling back to sleep, he thought back on the night before, after Jerrod and Roger and the dogs had left their room and he and Michael had had another amazing make out session. He was still not just excited each time, but amazed that Michael knew how to do things with his lips and his tongue that were so stimulating. Before Michael he'd always thought of making out as more like rubbing lips or something, but Michael convinced him that it was a form of making love, and it got him so excited he couldn't believe it. They were naked, and after a few minutes worth, Michael had rolled onto his back and pulled Nate on top of him. They went back to amazing kissing, and he found them grinding together like they'd done that night at the beach. Michael had whispered in his ear, "Hold up for just a sec," and reached for what turned out to be a bottle of lube in the bedside table drawer.

He'd kissed Nate and whispered, "I want to see if this makes it feel even better." With that he'd squirted some lube in the palm of his hand and rubbed it on his cock, and then done the same with Nate's. Just the liquid touch was so different that it made Nate jump, and then after Michael had put the bottle back, he pulled Nate back on top of him and as he kissed his ear said, "Now, where were we?"

They resumed and Nate was amazed how it felt now. The slipperiness, and slickness… it was such an enhanced feeling that he just groaned. Michael groaned back in his ear and clasped him to him. Nate felt his arms slide under Michael's in response and pull him close. Then as they moved on each other, Nate felt Michael's hands slide down his back, across his waist and up onto his buttocks… and squeeze. It was sensuous, and pulled their groins closer together, but it also felt different in a whole new way. They'd both come shortly thereafter, almost together, and Michael had a towel handy to clean up, and then they'd cuddled and kissed in the afterglow before falling asleep.

As he drifted back to sleep, Nate thought about how it felt to have his ass held and pulled so close to this boy he felt so strongly towards. And then, he slept.

There was no sleeping in though with one of the two dogs being a puppy who was getting used to a 6:00 o'clock walk. When they were done, Jerrod brought them back to the guest room and climbed back into his bed snuggling with Chloe. They both dropped back to sleep and woke up about 7:00 o'clock when Michael leaned in the door and said, "Rise and shine, boys. Breakfast is cooking!"

When they got to the kitchen, they fed the dogs and took in the aroma of the cooking breakfast. Michael's mom did a full ranch breakfast with bacon and hash browns, and eggs to order with stacks of whole wheat toast. Michael's dad had been out checking on water and feed for the cows but got back as they were cleaning up, and then they walked over to grandpa's house together.

Michael's dad looked them over and then said, very conversationally, "Everyone sleep well last night?" Jerrod could see a sly grin on his face, so decided to respond accordingly. "Well, after we took care of the challenge of the twin beds, yeah. Except for getting up at two o'clock to take Chloe out. I lost the coin toss!"

"That reminds me why getting a new puppy after Ruby goes will be hard." He looked at Nate and his son walking side by side, rubbing shoulders. "How about you two?"

Michael grinned. "We did fine, Dad. We didn't make too much noise, did we? I mean we didn't wake you and mom up did we?"

"No, son, I can't say that you did." He grinned back. "I guess that's what I get for asking questions like that."

Grandpa was sitting in a rocker on the front porch of his house finishing a cup of coffee. "Well look at that line up," he said as they approached. "You gents are a sight for sore eyes. If you were all wearing cowboy boots and hats, I'd think this was the OK Corral!"

"Right, Grandpa," Michael said, "sometimes your imagination gets carried away, you know." Then he went into a fake voice and said, "Ain't no Wyatt Earp in this crowd!"

"Well, you have no idea how handsome those men in Old West might have been. I mean you gents come strolling up here five abreast. It's an impressive sight!"

"I thought we came over here for a purpose, Dad," Michael's dad replied, "as in dig that Scout out, if we can get to it, and see what condition it's actually in."

"Yes, indeedy. That's the plan. And, I'll have you know I've cleared a passel of stuff out of the way in the last couple of days so we can get back to it, and even move it up front so there's room to work on it. Let's go take a look."

They walked to the old wood barn behind his house and he and Michael's dad swung the two large doors open and hooked them back against the sides of the building. That let in a lot of light, but it was still gloomy in the back. They could see the outline of a vehicle with a cover over it, but it wasn't until grandpa flipped on a work light that they could begin to make out the shaped under the cover.

"Okay, the elastic on the cover wore out a long time ago, so it's kind of tied to the bumpers in each corner. Why don't you boys each take a corner and free it up and we'll get that tarp off of it." That only took a few minutes, and as the tarp was pulled back what stood before them was a light blue vehicle that looked like a small truck with a roof. It was square styled except for the rear roof line that angled down to meet the rear end where there was a small tail gate. The roof was white fiberglass, and the contrast in colors between the roof and the light blue paint was stark.

"Wow! That's pretty cool looking, Grandpa," Michael said with conviction.

"It is, and I'm glad you appreciate it. So, first things. You can see the roof is in good shape and all the glass is too. I think all the window seals and the roof seals are in decent shape, so that should mean that with the cover it's kept the mice and other vermin out of the cab. If I remember, I closed the air ducts when I put it in here, so maybe we kept them all out. Anyway, let's start by rolling it down by the door in the light, okay? I know the battery's dead, so there's no point in trying to start it. I'll get in and throw it in neutral and you guys push, and we'll just roll it down there as nice as you please."

They did, and as Grandpa got out, brushing the dust off his clothes, he smiled. "You noticed that it stopped when I wanted it to? That's because the brakes work. They're manual and hydraulic, not power brakes, so they work even when the engine's not running. It feels like the emergency brake isn't fully engaging, so we'll need to put that on the list to adjust." He stepped back and held the driver's side door open inviting someone to get in. Michael took him up on the offer, looked around the dash and interior and then said, "Wow, grandpa, this is really cool." He looked at his friends. "Come on you guys, check it out."

He got out, also brushing the dust off his clothes, and made Nate get in the driver's seat, and Jerrod and Roger checked out the passenger side. Grandpa led them around to the front and popped the hood. "So, like I told you it has a small V-8 engine, so as I remember it, quite a bit of power for its size and weight." He looked at Michael's dad, "Is that the way you remember it?"

"Pretty much. It's nothing like the V-8 engines in new pickup trucks, but plenty of power for what it is, and more than enough power for off road driving too. Those tires don't look too good, Dad."

"They're not. They've got lots of cracks in the rubber. They'll need to be replaced for sure." They all stood there checking out the engine sitting in the bay. Finally, Jerrod said, "It seems like there's so much room in there. I mean, compared to Jackson's Challenger, or even the Cherokee."

"You're right, Jerrod," Michael's dad said, "They designed them different back then. The square body design isn't aerodynamic, but it makes for plenty of interior space in the cab and the bed and up here in the engine bay. Plus, it's a small V-8 and it doesn't have air conditioning or any of those kind of add-ons that take up space. You know what that means, though, don't you?"

Here he looked at Michael and Nate. They shook their head.

"There's plenty of room to work on stuff in there. With new cars and trucks there's no space to speak of. Look in there. You could almost stand inside the fenders if you had too."

"What do you say we get the top off," Grandpa asked, "then you boys can see what it looks like in fighting form!"

They undid the latches at the top of the windshield and back in the bed and together lifted the top off the body. It stuck to the weather seal in a few places and had to be helped along, but without too much work they had it off and set it on four pallets that Grandpa already had leaning against the side wall.

Then they stood back to take in the profile. It was small and square, but looked functional and capable. The windows on the driver and passenger side were rolled up, but the angled rear windows behind them lifted right out and then the back was wide open. The front end had a flat aluminum grill with single round headlights, and compared to the Cherokee, the interior and dashboard was spartan. The driver and passenger doors both had separate vent windows and main glass, and when the main windows were rolled down the vent windows stood out by themselves. They could be opened and angled in, to direct air flow into the cab. There was a plain instrument cluster and knobs that they were soon to learn were for headlights, choke, vents and the heater control. There was an AM radio.

Curious about what a Scout is? International Harvester stopped production of Scouts, Pickups and Travellals in 1980. They've become collector's items with a cult following. Follow the link below for an inside view of a vintage 1969 Scout 800A, very similar to the one Michael was given, though it doesn't have the Sport Top with the tapered rear roof line.

1969 International Harvester Scout Aristocrat 800A for sale on BaT Auctions - sold for $20,750 on June 23, 2021 (Lot #50,099) | Bring a Trailer

Much to the boys' delight, the seats seemed in decent condition and the floor was still covered with intact rubber matting.

Grandpa turned to Michael and Nate. "Did either of you bring a clipboard or a pad of paper?"

They both shook their heads.

"Well, how are we going to keep track of what needs to be done. It's your project, you know! Have one with you this afternoon when Jerry comes, okay?"

They both nodded, and Michael said, "I'll put 'adjust emergency brake' at the top of the list."

"Good plan. Now, let's look at the rubber." They all gathered around the engine bay while Grandpa and then Michael and Nate squeezed and then flexed the two radiator hoses and then flexed the fan belt.

"See the cracks in the fan belt, I'm betting Jerry will say that has to be replaced. I'm not sure about the radiator hoses, though. Then there's these two hoses that go from the engine to the heater. Not that you'll be using the heater this summer, mind you, but if one of those cracks, you'll have a coolant leak on your hands, and that's not good."

They talked for a while longer before all realizing that until the mechanic was with them and walked them through the priorities followed by his assessment of the work to be done, there wasn't much more to do.

Michael looked up brightly. "Do you guys know what time it is?"

Everyone looked blank or glanced at their watches.

"No. It's time to go swimming in the reservoir. Won't this be Chloe's first swim lesson?"

Jerrod and Roger grinned and nodded their heads, and after telling Grandpa they'd see him after lunch, they all headed back to Michael's house.

It was only a few minutes to put on swimsuits and grab towels, and then start walking down the road to the reservoir. Being Sunday morning there was no traffic to speak of, and it was placidly quiet. The air temperature was still in the low 80's and the sun felt great on their skin. When they arrived no one else was there, and they laid out their towels on a patch of grass. Jerrod made clear they had to be serious about Chloe because she tended to follow Kaiser, and that could lead to trouble if she got tired.

"So, I'm thinking one of us needs to be on the bank here all the time watching her. She'll only want to be in a little while at a time before she gets tired, then she'll come out and we need to be here."

Michael offered that there was a gradual beach just a bit further down, so they headed over there. He threw a stick for Ruby and Roger threw one for Kaiser while Jerrod held Chloe. Then all the other boys followed the dogs into the water. Roger turned around when he was about fifteen feet out and smiled at Jerrod who nodded back. Roger got her attention, and called her softly.

She alternated between looking at the two older dogs swimming around with sticks in their mouths, and one of her masters out in the water beckoning her, and took a couple of halting steps into the water… immediately backing out.

"You may need to walk her in the first time," Roger said.

Jerrod smiled back and picked Chloe up and waded in till he was knee deep, and held her so she was suspended in the water. Roger called her name again, and she looked at him as Jerrod released her… and she automatically started dog paddling toward Roger.

"Good girl! Come on… what a trooper!" She paddled right up to him, clearly proud of her accomplishment, and he lifted her out of the water and gave her a hug, then pointed her back to Jerrod who called her, and she swam to him. They repeated the action, but the second time Jerrod backed up out of the water, and Chloe swam to shore and trotted out of the water for a huge shake. Then she pranced around, clearly proud of her accomplishments and having great fun.

They swan and threw sticks for Kaiser and Ruby, and it wasn't long before Chloe tired out and laid down next to Jerrod. Before long all the boys were laying on their towels with Chloe, watching Kaiser and Ruby simultaneously swim together and wrestle for control of a stick… until finally Kaiser prevailed and triumphantly swam away.

"We'd better get them out now," Michael said, "so they start drying off. Otherwise, you'll be driving back to Portland with a very wet dog in the Cherokee. These dogs do have pretty heavy coats when they get wet."

"You're right, bro. I would have spaced that." Half an hour later they walked back to Michael's house, toweled the dogs off, and changed. The dogs were all left outside, and Michael's mom suggested they have lunch on the porch so the dogs could continue drying.

That's when it dawned on Jerrod that it was Sunday. He turned to Michael's mom and asked, "Aren't you going to church this morning?"

"No. You boys are here visiting, and this is Nate's first day here, so I decided that the priorities were different. Until I took your suggestion about getting involved in the GSA, I would have automatically put my routine or priorities first. But now that I have a deeper understanding about what some youth go through, the challenges they have to face… and I mean the LGB kids, I've kind of changed my priorities around."

"You're an amazing woman, you know," Jerrod said in all sincerity. "I sure hope there's a way you can meet my mom the next time she's out in Portland. In a lot of ways, you two are alike."

"Why thank you, Jerrod. I take that as a high compliment, and I look forward to meeting your mother. As Michael's parents, we've both come to realize that his well being has to be a priority. You and Roger are his best friends, and Nate is his… well, it sure feels like boyfriend, but I don't want to presume. Anyway, you know what I'm saying. We only have one son, he'll be a senior this year, so this is likely our last year together, meaning this is our last opportunity to make the best of it… and that's what we intend to do."

Jerrod stepped up and gave her a huge hug. She hugged him back and after a few moments said, "Why don't you help me carry the food out to the table on the porch."

When lunch was done, they all helped clean up, then Jerrod and Roger loaded their bag and the dog equipment in the Cherokee, and then the boys walked over to say goodbye to grandpa. He was sitting on the porch waiting for them.

"You city slickers aren't fixing on leaving and heading back to the bright lights in Portland so early are you?" He grinned, his eyes twinkling.

"Sorry, Grandpa, but that's the deal," Roger said. "As you know, we're part of the working class now, and we've got stuff to do when we get back so we can go to work tomorrow morning bright and early."

He got up out of the rocking chair and came down onto the lawn. Kaiser walked up to him and got a good ear scratching. "Let me say goodbye to that cute little puppy. How'd she do swimming? Did she requite herself well?"

"Sure did," Jerrod said. "It only took one try and she swam right out to Roger and after that it was a piece of cake."

He hugged Jerrod and Roger and then they walked toward the Cherokee. Jerrod was talking to Michael and Nate, and Roger hung back with grandpa who looked at him curiously. Roger softly said, "Can I ask you to do something for me? A favor."

The older man nodded, and Roger went on. "Michael told us just a little bit about the close friend you had in Korea. That means you know more and understand more about Nate and what he's going through and what he's likely to face than the rest of us. Even me and Jerrod. Will you watch out for him for us?"

Grandpa's eyes widened and a look of understanding spread across his face. He put his arm around Roger's shoulder and pulled him close. "You can count on that. I think I know what you're talking about, and I already like that kid a lot or I wouldn't have been kidding with him last night. You can count on it. I'll be watching over both of them, and Nate like a mother hen."

Roger stopped and pulled him into a tight hug, and whispered to him, "Thanks, Grandpa. You're the best."

Michael's parents had watched them all walk back and came down from the house to say goodbye. They'd folded the rear seats of the Cherokee down flat and put the blankets up there to make a couple of beds and both dogs settled down. It was quick hugs all around, with promises to call often and stay in touch, and Jerrod and Roger climbed in front and headed down the long driveway.

They watched the brake lights come on as the Cherokee stopped at the road before turning north to Pendleton, and then grandpa said, "Why don't you boys go get that pad and let's head down to the barn to meet Jerry. We've got automotive work to do this afternoon, you know!"

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