Kaiser's Rodeo

by Bensiamin

Chapter 4

Jerry arrived just a few minutes after 1:00 o'clock, joking about being a little late. "I'd forgotten how far out of town you folks live. Still, I'm here. Now introduce me to these boys. I think I remember Michael from a time or two he came to the shop with you, but that was years ago."

Michael's dad reacquainted Michael and Jerry, and then introduced Nate as his good friend from Portland who was spending the summer. "Nate's kind of a Little League baseball star, but he had hip surgery early this year and can't play, so we all figured getting him out of the city and up here in the country would be the best way to get him healed and keep him out of trouble. You know my dad, and leave it to him to come up with the Scout project, to give them something to work on."

"That's not the only thing they're going to be working on. I need that old wood loafing shed rebuilt and some other stuff, too," grandpa said. He shook Jerry's hand and then continued, "It's mighty kind of you to be willing to help out, and especially to come out here on a Sunday afternoon."

Jerry nodded and smiled. "Well, when I heard it was an old Scout, that got my attention." He looked at the boys. "Then I heard you two were pretty sharp but not that experienced in the mechanical department, so I said to myself, you probably need to step up and see if you can help this thing happen. So, first things first. There's no International dealership here in Pendleton. The nearest one is in Redmond, down by Bend. The big truck place here sells International big trucks, but they're really just the local representative for the outfit in Redmond. You probably know they don't make Scouts anymore, so that means we may have challenges with some parts. I don't know for sure, but I'm just saying."

Michael smiled at him and said, "We may have a solution. Our good friends from Portland just left. They brought Nate up here yesterday." He went on to tell him about Gary having a 1964 International pickup and that he thought there was an aftermarket parts dealer in Portland, and he was going to check on that for them.

"That's great news. I'm sure we'll be able to find shocks and brake shoes, things like that if they're needed, no problem. A lot of them were the same for all kinds of vehicles. But if we get to something that's specific to a Scout, I was worrying we'd run into trouble. Like for instance, a special fuel filter or thermostat or wheel bearing or what not. Good to know there's a parts option. How 'bout you gents show me this rig?"

They all walked into the barn and grandpa gave him the overview. Jerry did a quick walkaround and overview under the hood, wanted to know the last time it had been driven and then said, "I've got a battery, some starter fluid, brake fluid, oil… all the basics. Let's start by draining the old oil and putting in fresh, and draining the fuel tank. That way we'll see if there's water in the tank, and any rust."

He nodded at the boys to follow him, and they came back in a couple of minutes carrying a box each, and a minute later Jerry appeared in coveralls with a crawler and his toolbox.

"Crap! Michael, will you run back to my truck and get that black tray-like contraption in the bed for me. The one with the hole in the center. That's to drain the old oil into… so we're not pouring it into the floor of your grandpa's barn!"

Changing the oil was easy and Jerry was happy that he could find no metal filings in the bottom of the oil pan, but draining the fuel tank was more complicated. There was some rust, and it took a little manipulating to get a good flow as they slowly poured fresh gasoline in the filler tube to clear out the bottom of the tank. When it ran clear they moved to the fuel filter, which was in a glass bowl. "There's some accumulated dirt in the bottom of the bowl, but that's natural. I don't see any rust. That's a good sign, meaning it wasn't being picked up by the fuel pump which could plug the fuel line from the tank to the filter. We should replace the fuel filter. So far, so good." Jerry grinned at them.

After they replaced the battery and saw that the gauges all worked and the headlights came on, Jerry said, "Okay, now the first test is if it'll start. We're going to remove the air filter. This baby has the original oil bath air filter. I'd suggest you replace that with a newer paper air filter. That means buying the housing with the filter. They're smaller and you don't have to worry about the mess from oil splashing out of this one."

Michael looked at his dad and grandpa, and they both nodded, and Jerry said, "Put new air filter housing on your list. It should be easy to find. It'll come with the paper element, and we'll also want a new oil filter. We'll remove the air filter in a minute, and that'll give us access to the carburetor which we'll need when we go to start it. Meanwhile, Nate, bring that socket set over here and hand me the wrench and that socket on the far end for spark plugs. We'll check if any are fouled, then pull the distributor cap and see what it looks like."

Both were in decent shape, and Jerry said, "Now we just hope the ignition coil is decent. We need that for spark." He turned to Michael and said, "Hop inside now, and slowly pull on that knob that has a big C on it. That'll be the choke and we need it to work." Michael did so, but it was stiff. Jerry looked at Nate and said, "In one of those boxes is a can of WD-40. Grab that for me, will you?" When it was handed over, Jerry sprayed the end of the choke cable where it disappeared into its wire sheath, then said, "Now, hand that can to Michael and tell him to spray just a little onto the shaft of the choke knob. Then count ten and slowly start to work it back and forth." They did and after a couple of minutes the choke cable started sliding more smoothly.

"What'a ya think, Michael"

Michael grinned back at Jerry. "It's still stiff, but at least it moves and doesn't feel like it's going to break!"

"That's good news. Okay, boys, now we'll remove this air filter, so we have access to the carburetor and see if it starts with my secret ingredient."

They all looked at Jerry with curiosity on their face.

"Haven't any of you guys had to do desperation mechanics where you had to get the job done with just what you have at hand?" He looked at Grandpa and grinned. "I know you have. Do you know what I'm going to do?"

"I have to say that I don't, but somehow I don't think we'd find it in the service manual!"

"You're damned right you won't! What we're going to do is have Michael get in and turn the ignition on and then pull the choke. There's no point in pumping the gas pedal because we drained the tank before we put fresh gas in. That means the fuel line got drained too. So, Michael, you crank it two or three times for three or four seconds. We don't want to overdo it and wear that new battery down, but what we're doing is turning the engine over and that drives the fuel pump and starts pulling gas out of the tank and pushing it through the filter and up to the carburetor. It's kind of the same thing you'll do one of those days when you're not paying attention and run out of gas."

He laughed out loud, and Michael's dad and grandpa both joined him, having lived through the same situation at some point in their lives. The two boys looked at each other wondering what the big deal was.

Jerry went on. "When you do that, by the third or fourth try it's either going to start by itself or it's not. Let's go."

Michael did as instructed, and they all watched the choke close the butterfly valve then saw the fan turn as the engine turned over. On the third try Jerry said, "I can smell gas, so we've got fuel to the carburetor. Try it again Michael."

He did and it wouldn't start, and Jerry waved him to stop. "Okay, now we try the secret ingredient, which is starting fluid. Sometimes you need to force ignition in the cylinders to get everything working." He lifted up the can of starter fluid and asked Michael if he was ready. When he nodded, Jerry said, "Crank it," and then shot a stream of starter fluid straight into the carburetor.

There was a strained couple of seconds when nothing happened, and then the sound of ignition as some, and then all of the cylinders fired. That was immediately followed by a loud whoop of joy from everyone else, and Jerry yelled at Michael to push the choke in part way, and when he did the engine almost died. "Give it some gas," Jerry yelled over the sound of the engine, and that kept the engine from dying, but it was running rough. A minute later he told Michael to push the choke all the way in, and the engine kept running but was still real rough.

"Let's adjust the mixture and see if that helps." He pulled a small screwdriver out of his overall pocket and went to work. The engine sounded a little better, but still wasn't running smoothly at all.

After a couple of minutes, he stood up and shook his head. "I think we need to rebuild the carburetor. It's thirty years old, and been sitting here for fifteen, right?" He looked at grandpa who nodded in agreement.

Nate had been watching the carburetor adjustment attempts with great interest and said, "Why does a carburetor need to be rebuilt?"

"Well, Nate, it starts with age. Like I said, this baby is thirty years old. Carburetors are mechanical, and that means they've got internal parts and gaskets and seals. Those can deteriorate and cause problems. Then there's also parts like the float and needle and seat that get worn. On top of that, gasoline sitting in the fuel bowl for a long time deteriorates and then evaporates and leaves a residue we call varnish that plugs up the little openings inside the carburetor. Add all that up and you can understand the problem."

"Wow! I didn't know there was all that stuff inside a carburetor. Is it complicated?"

"Well, let's just say that it's not something a novice mechanic is going to pull off without complications," Jerry replied with a chuckle. "That said, though, it's not all that hard. If you want, I'll take it with me and rebuild it one of these next evenings. It's a Holley 2300 2-barrel, and that was a pretty common carburetor so there should be no problem finding a rebuild kit at the auto parts store."

"You'd do that?"

"Why sure! That's why Michael's dad and grandpa roped me into this project." He grinned and then added, "it'll be fun, actually. But there's an extra cost associated with it?"

"Yeah?" Nate looked at Michael, suddenly worried. Michael grinned back.

"Yeah! I'm pretty sure that'll have the engine running smoothly. Then we check the compression to make sure the rings are good, and then with new tires it should be drive-able. But the extra cost is that if I'm going to rebuild the carburetor for you boys, after we reinstall it, I get to drive it first!"

"What?" Michael tried to reply in mock outrage, but immediately started giggling at the craziness of the offer. "You've got a deal, Jerry!"

Jerry looked at Michael's dad and said, "These boys are too easy. They don't know how to bargain, do they?"

"They're learning, Jerry. And by the time you're done with them, I suspect they'll be approaching professional levels. What else needs to be done?"

Jerry stood back and stretched his back and said, "I need to know what you're trying to accomplish. A carb rebuild should have it running smooth and new tires means one won't go flat on the first or second time out. I'm assuming the generator is okay, which means the battery will be recharged."

"I want it safe and reliable. That's the main thing. Dependable starting and stopping, and no breakdowns or failures that cause an accident. I don't want these boys having any surprises."

"Safety and reliability are good goals. First, on safety. It's a 1970 model, so it's got seat belts. However, when the top is off like it sits here now, there's only the windscreen and no other structural support above the body. That's why they make roll bars. Next, we'll check the hydraulic lines to make sure there's no leaks and confirm the brakes work the way they're supposed to. I'm betting it'll need new brake shoes. With the carb rebuilt, we'll have taken care of the fuel system. Next time I'll being my test equipment and we'll make sure the distributor and ignition are working to spec, and that the generator is putting out the right voltage. That'll take care of most of the reliability stuff other than wiring. I can't see any wiring problems in the engine bay, but checking the other wires won't be hard. We'll check the shocks too, 'cause they may be weak just from age. I doubt there's anything wrong with the ball joints or wheel bearings, but we'll check and lube them and then we should be there."

Michael's dad smiled. "Good. That sounds pretty straight forward. I remember thinking about a roll bar once, but it seemed kind of exotic."

"That's 'cause you never rolled this baby. Anyway, that's something down the line." He turned to Nate and said, "Hand me that set of small box wrenches, and we'll disconnect the accelerator linkage and get the fuel line off. Then we'll need the three eighths inch wrench to get the carb off the manifold."

The boys went to work with him, acting like shop assistants, handing Jerry what he asked for, and taking things like the throttle linkage when handed to them and setting them on the bench.

When they were done Jerry said, "Okay, gents. It's almost four o'clock and I need to get going. I'll bring the carb back when I get it rebuilt. I can come back next Sunday too. Do you want me to get brake shoes and shocks? We'll test the electrical system and see how it looks, too."

Michael's dad nodded and Jerry said, "Okay, boys, help me load my gear back in my truck, and we'll get this show on the road. I'll try and get the carb done tomorrow or Tuesday. If so, I'm guessing you'll be around on Wednesday evening, it being summer and all… am I right?"

They grinned and nodded. "Okay, that's good." He looked at Michael's dad and said, "I'll call you when I know where I am with the carb, and we can go from there. You get to decide if you want to pull the wheels and take them down to Les Schwab for new tires or wait and drive it down. That said, I'm off. I told the wife I'd be home by 5:00 o'clock, and can't be late… again!"

He laughed picked up his toolbox and they all walked out to his truck, Michael and Nate carrying boxes behind him.

As they watched him drive off, Nate said, "What a cool guy. He was so nice and friendly."

"Yeah," Michael added, "he treated us like we were adults or something."

"He's that kind of guy," Michael's dad said. "In my mind he's one of those 'salt of the earth' people. He'd give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. Now," and he paused and looked at his dad, "are those auto stands you used to have still around here?"

Grandpa nodded and said, "Yeah, they're back with the rest of my tools. On the lower shelf by the chain saw. They're kind of rusty, but they're still strong. Why?"

"Because we're going to jack this baby up and pull the wheels, and then sometime tomorrow we're going into town to Les Schwab to get new tires mounted. Michael, you go get those stands. Nate, you spray some WD-40 on those lug nuts. I'm pretty sure it's going to take some work to get them off after all these years."

Nate woke up the next morning with Michael spooned behind him again, and immediately appreciated the feeling of security and affection. His mind wandered to thinking about the evening before. Dinner had been a lot of talk about the Scout and the mechanical work they'd be doing. Jerrod had called with the info about the Scout parts reseller in Portland. Then he called home and talked to his mom and then to Matt for quite a while. Matt was impressed with the Scout project and made Nate promise to call regularly and keep him informed. He was still happy with his construction job, and already had almost enough money saved up for the down payment on a car.

"Do you know what you're going to buy?" Nate asked.

"No. I'm basically thinking practical, but David has already introduced me to Dieter, he's the man who owns the beach house we stayed at. Well, he and his partner own it. Dieter is the sales manager at the BMW dealership in town, and David made clear he can be totally trusted and would get me a good deal on a dependable used car."

"So, you're getting a BMW? Wow!"

"No, Nate. I'm not getting a BMW. Remember what I said about practical? This is for going to college. Dieter's keeping his eye open for cars that customers trade in on BMWs. Anyway, we'll see what happens. Listen, bro, I've got to go. I told Jessica I'd come by this evening. Are you and Michael getting along like you'd hoped?"

"Yeah. It's going really well. We're good together, and his parents have made me feel like part of their family."

"That's good news. You two have fun, and you keep in touch, hear?"

Nate smiled to himself, happy he had such a great guy for an older brother and that they could talk so freely. Things had gotten a lot better for Matt in the last few months, with David and Jackson helping him sort through the sexual abuse he'd experienced with his little league coach. He was past the anger and the bullying, and seemed so much calmer now, and happy in his relationship with Jessica. That made Nate think of his relationship with Michael. He was happy, too, he knew that. Just the way he felt waking up with Michael next to him told him that. And Michael had been true to his word about not pressing him to go faster than he wanted.

The night before, they'd gone to their room after dinner and listened to some music and read the first few sections of the gay sex book, looked at the pictures and talked about it. It had been sexy, and before long they'd been making out and stroking each other all over. Nate loved the little things Michael did to express his affection, like lick his ear and, and suck and chew on his nipples.

And then there was the way he treated his cock and balls, as if they were the most precious things ever. He'd gently blown on the head of Nate's cock, then ever so softly began licking the head, and slowly moved to taking it in his mouth. By then Nate was so excited and Michael was so hard and dripping precum that he'd turned in the bed and kissed Michael's cock. They ended up doing a wonderful sixty nine and then fell asleep in each other's arms. It had felt great, but now he found himself thinking, the book is about gay sex, and Michael knows he's gay. Nate really liked the way things were going with Michael, the way they felt, but did liking it mean he was gay? Until just a few months ago he'd thought he was straight, then as he got to know Michael and acknowledged his feelings, he accepted he was probably bi. Now he was laying here with Michael's arm over his side after he'd had sex with this boy he liked so much. What did that say about what he really was?

He didn't have to wait for an answer, because Michael rolled onto his back and stretched with a yawn, rolled back and kissed the back of Nate's neck and said softly, "Good morning, lover. Are you ready to rise and shine? We're on cow watering duty this morning."

Nate turned over into Michael's embrace and kissed him briefly, and then said, "Ready to go. Cows first, then we're going to town, right?"

Michael nodded, "Yep, we'll probably head out later this morning. Drop the wheels off at Les Schwab, then dad has some errands to run. Then we'll probably have some lunch, then go to the feed store… stuff like that. We'll shower before we go into town. Right, now, I've gotta pee… how about you?"

They walked across the hall to the bathroom, grinning at each other because they knew what was coming. They peed together into the toilet, crossing and recrossing their piss streams, and grinning like little kids. When they were both done and tucked back in, Michael reached up and grasped Nate's face softly and pulled him close. "I can't tell you how happy I am that you're here. I've never felt this way about anyone before." He paused, worried about going too far in expressing what he was feeling.

"It's the same for me," Nate replied. "A lot of it's new for me, so I'm really happy about you being so cool and patient. Last night was amazing. That's two nights in a row, you know?" He grinned with a devilish glint in his eyes.

Michael smiled back. "If you're liking it and happy, then so am I. Let's wash up and get changed, or dad will be down here knocking on the door to make sure we're up.

After breakfast, they all headed for the back porch. Michael pulled on his boots and donned his black cowboy hat. "You going to be okay in shorts and sneakers?"

Nate nodded, and they all climbed into the truck and then dropped Michael's dad off at the large loading shed where he had some feed to prepare and a few other odd jobs. "You boys be back by ten o'clock, alright. Then after you clean up, we'll load those wheels over at your grandpa's place and head into town.

Michael drove the truck, and they headed down the highway past the reservoir to a gravel road that headed west, crossed the creek and then headed up a hill. After a short while they came to a gate and Nate hopped out to open it. When he got back in, they headed north on what slowly became a dirt track. After a mile the road dropped down into a shallow swale and Nate could see two huge watering troughs. They were at least twenty feet in diameter, and on the downhill side grass was growing, but the other side was brown.

Nate smiled at him as they pulled to a stop and Michael turned off the engine and stepped on the parking brake. "So, what's the deal. Am I going to get a complete education on cow watering this morning?"

"Well, that's kind of the plan. But only if you do something for me first?"

"Yeah? What's that?" Nate asked kind of coyly.

"You have to slide over here and give me a kiss. I haven't had one all morning yet."

Nate grinned. "I think I can do that. It sounds like you're developing a habit though. You know we only got out of bed like an hour and a half ago?"

"Hey, I can't help it. It's how I feel and what I need. Isn't there a song about that, called something like 'I Need You?' Seems to me there is."

"You're a bit of a romantic, you know," Nate replied, as he slid across the seat. "But I kind of like that about you."

"Okay. Now, stop talking and just kiss me."

A few minutes later, they finally broke for air and Nate said something about what a way to start the day. Michael laughed and responded, "I guess we'd better get to work on the watering. So, here's the deal. The land we own over here is cross-fenced into two sections that we move the cows back and forth to about once a week. Each one has a well and two stock tanks like these. We've tried floats in the tanks, but they get plugged up and either the cows don't get enough water, or they don't shut off and the tanks overflow. So, the program is that each morning we drain both tanks and then refill them."

"Why drain them?"

"Because the cows don't drink all the water each day, and they're kind of messy. Also, you'll see there's algae and other stuff growing at the bottom of the tanks. If we just let it stand and get warm in the sun and keep filling them, pretty soon they're full of that stuff. It's easier to just drain them and fill them with clean water."

"So that's why there's green grass growing on one side of the tanks."

"Pretty perceptive. You better be careful, or you'll end being a cowboy or something. Come on."

Michael showed Nate how to pull the plugs and immediately a two-inch diameter flow of water came shooting out three or four feet from each tank. When they were emptied, they put the plugs back in and Michael turned on the pump and they watched the tank refill.

"When do they drink the water?"

"Basically, in the morning and at night. They get supplemental feed in the morning and evening. That brings them in here. The rest of the day they're grazing on grass and stuff. So, they all miraculously show up for that feed and drink their fill. Then they bed down around here… that's why there's so much cow shit around. Every couple of weeks we have to clean that up and spread it. Then they drink more water in the morning, and then shuffle off to graze for the day. Come on, we'll take a cruise and check on them."

They got back in the truck and Michael slowly drove the perimeter of the section they were in. It was rolling hills, and in a few minutes, they could see the herd down in a swale grazing.

"See, they're happy campers," Michael said.

"How often do they get moved?"

"They move all over each section by themselves, and we move them onto the other section every ten days or two weeks, depending on how dry it is. That means each one doesn't get overgrazed and gives it time to grow back. You'll see where moving them is a lot easier on horses than with pickups or on foot."

"Where are the horses?"

"There's two down in the barn. That's where the cattle winter, and dad leases the horses for the summer 'cause that's really the only time we need them. You heard him, though, no horses for you for a while, so you'll have to drive the truck and watch for a while. Either way, it sure beats trying to move the herd when you're on the ground!"

He turned the truck and headed back to the stock tanks where he stopped. "Here, you drive home. You've got to get used to the equipment, being a ranch hand and all for the summer."

"Ranch hand. Is that what I am?"

"Well, yeah. You don't qualify yet as a wrangler or a cowboy. But if you're a good student and study hard and do everything I tell you, I bet we can get you qualified by the end of the summer."

As he spoke, Michael had slid his hand onto Nate's thigh and slid it up, so he was rubbing his crotch. "But you have to do everything I tell you," he murmured

"Is that part of being qualified, I mean liking having your hand on my crotch?"

"If it is, then you've already passed that part of the test." Nate snorted and got out of the cab and walked around to the driver's side while Michael slid over to the passenger side.

When he got in, before he shifted into gear, Nate turned to look at Michael and said, "Do you have any idea how good it feels to be here with you, instead of being by myself back in Portland, recovering from that surgery, not able to do much and bored out of my mind?"

Michael reached for his hand and said, "Yeah, I do. I didn't have surgery like you did, but I had to come back from the chemo, and that was its own form of shittiness. No energy, couldn't do much, all of that. So, yeah, I know what you mean. That's one of the reasons I'm glad you're here this summer. The other one is selfish. Because of how I feel about you."

Nate smiled, feeling just a small flush of embarrassment. He squeezed Michael's hand as he said, "I know. You make me feel so much better about myself. When I wake up…" he paused, hesitant to finish.

"What? Tell me, please!"

Nate swallowed and looked at Michael, still holding his hand. "When I wake up with you spooned up behind me in the morning, I feel so happy and secure and feel so much affection. It's the most wonderful thing I've ever felt."

Michael smiled softly and said, "I'm glad." Then his eyes glimmered, and he said, "Does it feel better than the night before?"

"You're bad, you know? I'm talking about two different things," Nate said. "The night before, like last night, was sex, and it was amazing. This morning it was peace and happiness. You know what I mean?"

"Yeah, I do. I'm just razzing you."

Nate paused, then said, "You know what else I just realized?"

Michael shook his head.

"I'm talking with you about how I felt and about sex… just like Jerrod and Roger told us we had to. That's pretty cool."

"It is. Have I told you today that you're pretty cool?"

"No," Nate said, and as he went to release Michael's hand and shifted the pickup into gear, Michael brought the back of his hands to his lips. "Have I told you today that I love you?"

Nate smiled widely. "No, but being told that and being told I'm cool is really nice to hear."

They were back by ten o'clock and pulled up in front of the house. Ruby was sitting on the front porch and came to greet them. As they patted her Michael said, "I should have told you to be careful of the mud and cow shit. Look at your sneakers."

Nate looked down and they were filthy, chunks of mud from the stock tanks sticking to them, the tread full of mud and cow shit, and some of it rubbed up on his socks. He looked up in surprise.

"See, that's why boots and long pants have a place. Boots are easier to clean, and they also protect your legs, and, we weren't even out walking in the sage brush!" He laughed. "I should have told you to wear your Levi's. Sorry, it's on me. Still, when we go to the feed store, we'll talk to Stew about boots and jeans and stuff. You'll have a new appreciation now. Stew's a character, and sometimes a bit much, but he's a really good guy. You'll like him."

The heard Michael's dad come out on the porch. "How'd it go, boys? Under control? You guys about ready to head to town?"

"Yeah, Dad. All good, and Nate got the first lesson on watering and grazing cattle."

"I also got a lot of mud on my sneakers, and that means in your truck. Sorry about that."

"Nothing to worry about, Nate. It's a ranch truck. When the dirt gets an inch thick on the floor, then it's time to sweep it out. You boys grab a quick shower and then we'll head over to pick up the wheels and go to town."

They headed inside and grabbed a drink and Michael said softly, "I'd love to take a shower with you, but I don't think it's safe with dad right here. You go first, then me."

Nate grinned and said, "I think I'm going to wear my Levi's. I'm starting to feel like shorts don't cut it."

Michael grinned back, "Go for it."

Nate was in and out in a few minutes, and when Michael came out of the bathroom, he was wearing his Levi's and a T-shirt. "Look better?"

"Looks more western, that's for sure. And very sexy in that snug T-shirt."

They headed back to the porch and Michael pulled on his boots and then put on his hat as Nate tied his sneakers. He found himself now wondering about how the sneakers fit with jeans out here in Pendleton.

Nate found himself riding in the middle between Michael and his dad, and they stopped briefly at grandpa's barn to toss the wheels from the Scout in the bed. Then they were heading into town. The Les Schwab tire store was the first stop because, as Michael's dad explained, there was no telling how long it would take them to mount the tires. "They could be having a real busy day, but this way, we can make it our last stop on our way out of town and they should be ready."

Then they went by the John Deere tractor dealership where they picked up an order Michael's dad had placed earlier. "This is for my mechanical work while you're working on the Scout. It's summer, so there's maintenance to do on the tractor, and especially on the combine harvester and the bailer, because we'll be putting up hay before too long."

They were heading for lunch when suddenly they pulled into an auto parts store. They looked at each other and Michael said, "What's up?"

"Well," his dad said, "Jerry's rebuilding the carb and he said you should replace the air filter, right? And get an oil filter. So, let's see if they have a replacement air filter housing for that Holley carb. Then when Jerry gets the rebuild done you guys can have the fuel system finished."

It turned out that Jerry had been right in his prediction. The Holley two-barrel carburetor was common enough that there was on off-the-shelf replacement for the oil bath air filter that included the paper filter and the mounting assembly. They also got the oil filter, and when they got to the cash register, Nate looked at Michael's dad and said, "Can I pay for this stuff?"

"There's no need, Nate. Our deal was that grandpa and I would pay to get it operational and then the rest is on you."

"Are you sure? I want to pay my part. I mean, I'm living with your guys. I've got some money, you know."

"I do know, and I appreciate you offering. Here's what I'll say to you. Let grandpa and me pay for what it takes to get it operational. The reason is that I was your age once, and I know something else. Once it's running and you boys start driving it and doing stuff in it, you know what's going to happen? You're going to have to buy gas, and there'll be maintenance, and something or other will go wrong, and then you'll think of a whole bunch of other stuff you really want to do to it or add to it. And guess what? That'll all cost money. So, save your money for that. But I really do appreciate the offer."

After stopping at a local drive in for lunch they headed for the feed and Western store. They pulled in by the silos and the loading dock and backed up to the dock before they stopped. Michael's dad looked at his son, "I'll go take care of the feed. Why don't you guys go around front and see if Stewart's working and talk to him about those boots and things?"

Michael grinned, and his dad said, "I'll come in when I'm done in the warehouse."

When they walked into the retail store their eyes had to adjust from the bright sunlight outside. Most of the walls were paneled in old barn wood and then had signs of western wear manufacturers mounted on them. It felt pleasant, the look was very countryish, and the smell of leather was warm and attractive. They walked to the cash register and Michael asked for Stewart, and the lady pointed over in the boot section, "He's over there stocking inventory. We just got a new shipment of boots in."

The walked that way and looked down the first of four aisles, it was empty. In the third they saw a cart stacked with boxes of boots, and a rolling step ladder that was six feet high. A pair of legs in Wranglers and cowboy boots was standing on the fourth step, the young man's arms over his head as he rearranged boxes of boots on the top shelf.

As they walked up, he didn't notice, and Michael put his fingers to his lips and quietly slipped up next to the ladder. At the same time as he placed his hand on the young man's knee and slid it up his thigh he said in a high voice, "Tell me what you need up there, Big Boy, and I'll be happy to assist."

The legs barely twitched, and a voice came from above, "Depending on who it is, you can stop that right now… or not!"

As the arms came down, a face appeared and broke into a big grin of recognition. "Michael! Great to see you man!" He came down the ladder, and as he turned to Michael and Nate he was saying, "If I'd known it was you, I'd have said don't stop till you reach the top!"

"Meaning? Couldn't you get in trouble saying stuff like that in public," Michael asked.

"Well, no, because… well, you know. I work here and my dad owns the place, and besides, if anyone wanted to make a deal about it, I'd just say I meant don't stop till you get to the top of the ladder so you can help me stack boot boxes." He grinned saucily, and then continued, "Don't I get a hug? I haven't had a real hug since our last date!"

"Now, don't start off making me feel bad," Michael retorted, and stepped up to pull the boy into a close hug. His face was next to Michael's then turned over his shoulder to look at Nate and he said, "Oh, wow! This must be your boyfriend, Nate. You hit the jackpot, man. Come on, introduce me."

Michael released him and turned back to Nate who was already blushing a little and said, "Nate, this is Stewart, but he goes by Stew. I've told you about him. You can tell, he's really happy to meet you."

Nate grinned and extended a hand, but Stew stepped right past it and pulled Nate into a hug. "Any boyfriend of Michael's is a friend of mine. We're all playing on the same team, and have to take care of each other."

Nate hugged him back and looked at Michael over Stew's shoulder. Michael grinned and rolled his eyes. When they had released each other, Michael said, "Stew, thanks for the compliments. I think I hit the jackpot, too, but cool it on the boyfriend stuff, okay. We're just getting together, I mean Nate's only been here two days, and we're taking it as it goes."

Stew looked back and forth between the two of them and said, "I can understand. No pressure, and I get it. I've gotta say, though, you two are a good-looking pair." He turned to Nate and then said, "So, you're here for the summer and you get to spend the whole time living with this guy? You are one lucky mother! How come my lucks so bad. I only got two dates with him, and then he tells me he's like majorly fallen for this other patient he met at Doernbecher… and I'm thinking maybe it's a wimpy kid who's not that good looking and it's mainly a sympathy thing that'll wear off… but it didn't, and now this." He looked back at Michael, "I clearly have no chance. I guess you were right, we'll just have to settle for being friends."

Michael smiled and softly said, "That works for me. You're a great friend, Stew."

Stew turned to Nate and said, "You're automatically included on my list of great friends now, and don't let me put you off. I'm not always this pushy, but I've been dying of curiosity since Michael started telling me about his cool friend in Portland, that you were going to be here for the summer, and how much he likes you… and how good looking you are. He wasn't lying, either."

Nate smiled, but blushed, and Stew put his arm around his shoulder and said, "I'll chill, but you are. Accept it. You're a really good-looking guy. There's going to be a lot of hearts fluttering in Pendleton this summer, I can tell you that!"

He looked back at Michael and said in a sing-song voice, "So, did you just come in to introduce me to your 'friend who is visiting for the summer from Portland' or are you looking for something from our fine selection of Western wear?"

"Stew, you're going to love this. Nate's from the city, and he mainly wears shorts and sneakers in the summer, though he does have that old pair of Levi's." At this he pointed at the jeans Nate had on. "Anyway, my grandpa figured if he's going to be here for the summer, he better get Nate properly outfitted with some good cowboy boots, so he doesn't break an ankle or get bitten by a snake, and some Wranglers, and a good cowboy hat so he doesn't die of sun stroke. Grandpa's paying, but I told him I figured you being such a good guy and all, you'd probably be able to get us a discount. You know, like employee pricing or something." He grinned at his friend.

"Michael, you are very presumptuous!" He looked at Nate and said, with a glint in his eye, "Is he like this with you all the time? How do you put up with it? My parents tell me I'm the pushy one." He flashed a smile, then turned back to Michael. "Normally I would rebuff your approach as being overly cheeky, but I have to say… as I've told you before, that after you and your mom had David come up here to talk to the GSA, and especially when he did that parent's meeting that both my parents went to, my life has gotten so much better… just like yours. So, buddy boy, I am more than happy to make employee pricing available under the circumstances."

He turned to Nate and asked, "Have you ever owned any western clothes before? Why are you wearing Levi's anyway?"

"Nope," Nate replied and grinned. He realized being bashful was not the best social style to use with Stew. "I'm what grandpa calls a city slicker, and all the kids at school wear Levi's so that's why. Never worn cowboy boots. They look way too uncomfortable. You know, those pointy toes. I've always thought you could pick your nose with a pair of those on!"

"Whoa! That's a good one. I've got to remember that one. Here's the deal, cowboy boots were always working boots designed for riding… and the pointy style didn't come along until Western movies became a big thing. They used to just have rounded toes, and now a newer style is squared-off toes. Both are a lot more comfortable than the pointy ones. Now, turn around for me, okay?"

Nate did and when he was back to facing Stew, he saw him flash a grin at Michael and say, "I know why you want him in Wranglers!" Michael grinned back at him and wiggled his eyebrows.

"Come on, guys, let me in on the secret," Nate said. "I'm feeling kind of weirded out here."

"Sorry, Nate. You are new to the western scene, and I took that for granted. What I meant by the comment to Michael is that there's this thing known as 'Wrangler butt.' Ever heard of it?"

Nate shook his head but looked suspicious.

"Well, here's the deal. Levi's are cut with a straight seat, but Wrangler's are cut with a more curved seat. That means it follows the contours of the wearer's buttocks. Michael told me you play baseball. Does your team wear tight pants in your uniform, the ones that show off the contours of your legs, or those ugly, loose and baggy ones?"

Nate smiled knowingly and said, "I get it. We wear the tight ones. They're called form fitting. Is that what you're talking about?"

"Sure am. You understand, my man. On most guys even Wranglers just look like regular jeans, but on certain males with the… the right anatomy, they look amazing. They make your butt stand out and look, well… beautiful."

"Why should that matter to me? I'm working with Michael on the ranch. These are for working."

"Yeah, but one should always look one's best, don't you think? Anyway, I think Michael would appreciate the view." He turned to look at Michael and added, "Am I right?"

Michael just smiled and softly said, "I better not say too much, other than there's no rule they can only be worn for work."

Stew turned back to Nate and said, "Then allow me. You have a wonderful butt. It's what in the gay world is highly appreciated as a bubble butt. I can assure you that the girls go for it, too. And not only will you look wonderful in Wranglers, and that they will feel much better on you, but that there will be a certain number of admirers, too."

Nate shrugged his shoulders and smiled. Stew turned back to Michael. "What are you thinking about boots?"

"A decent pair of work boots, maybe Justin's or something like that. And a decent Resistol hat… one that's comfy, shades his face and isn't too hot."

"Okay. Resistol's got a nice ivory colored one with a cool band that will work well and isn't too expensive. It'll be way cooler than that black one you wear! Besides, it'll look really nice with his hair, which is light brown now, but I'm betting will be a much lighter by the end of the summer."

He turned back to Nate, put his arm around his shoulder, and said, "Come with me over to the Wrangler section, and we'll get you decked out like a cowboy."

Half an hour later Nate had two pairs of Wranglers, the boots and the hat that Stew had described. He liked the color of the hat and the way it felt and decided to wear it home. He'd been embarrassed for a minute when he'd been trying on the Wranglers because Stew had kept talking about Wrangler butts and at one point said, "Let me show you," and ran his hand from the waist down over Nate's butt and onto his thigh. "See how nice and smooth? Now look in the mirror. See how good you look in these? Your body is what they were made for."

To Nate it felt kind of weird, but he also liked that another boy besides Michael admired and appreciated his body. That made him feel good, and the raving comments that Stew had made about him had given him a new appreciation for how Michael really saw him.

They'd stood around at the cash register for a few minutes waiting for Michael's dad, who shortly walked in, and a smile broke on his face as he saw Nate wearing the cowboy hat.

"You look good in that hat. It fits you perfectly." He looked at Stew and said, "Nice job, Stewart. You know what you're doing. How'd we do in the boots department?"

They described the boots and Wranglers and that Stew had also thrown in two Wrangler wallets that were on promotion. They were tall ones that extended beyond the top of the rear pocket and had a silver star within a circle mounted on them.

Stew walked out to the parking lot with them, falling behind a couple of feet with Nate. "Thanks for putting up with all my stuff. I know I can get carried away, but believe me, you're a good-looking dude and you shouldn't be ashamed of showing it. Remember, though, we're in cowboy country, so be careful where you show it off."

Nate glanced at him with a quizzical look on his face. "There's a lot of hate for gays around, even though, believe it or not, there are gay guys on the rodeo circuit. Do you know where Laramie, Wyoming is?"

Nate shook his head as he said, "I guess I've heard of it but don't know where it is."

"Well, it's in central Wyoming and that's serious cowboy country – more accurately backward cowboy country. Anyway, last year a gay kid named Matthew Shepard was given a ride home by two drunk cowboys, but what they did was take him out in the country, pistol whipped him and tied him to a barb wire fence. He died a few days later. So, the point is just that there's trouble out there if you go looking for it. Pendleton is pretty conservative, but having a national rodeo each September, one that's on the Professional Rodeo Association circuit means everyone has to be more accepting."

Nate nodded and said softly, "Wow! That's scary."

"It doesn't have to be. You're here and not in Laramie. We'll all look out for you, but more importantly, Michael really cares about you. Take care of him, please. I kind of fell for him, but we're not made for each other. I can tell you guys are." He squeezed Nate's shoulder and they joined Michael and his dad at the truck.

"Did you tell Stewart about the Scout project," Michael's dad was asking? Michael shook his head. "No, we were focused on the clothes." He turned and gave Stew a quick summary of the Scout project.

"Wow! That sounds way cool. I'll help if I can, but you know I'm better at art and theater than mechanics. But I'm betting it's going to take some cash to pay for that project. You know they're hiring part timers at the rodeo grounds? It's just a couple of days a week to get through the summer rodeo season and then get ready for the Round Up over Labor Day. I heard today they've still got a few spots left. Anyway, when can I see the Scout?"

Michael explained that the rebuilt carb was going on in the next day or two and that he'd let him know when it was running, and they could plan something. On the drive home they talked about the rodeo job possibility. "What do you think, Dad? We're going to need money to keep working on the Scout. You and grandpa can't be paying for it all, it wouldn't be right. What if we could get on part time for just a couple days a week with the rodeo grounds? It'd be a great experience and we'd be earning some money. Could we make it work at the ranch?"

Talk about this story on our forum

Authors deserve your feedback. It's the only payment they get. If you go to the top of the page you will find the author's name. Click that and you can email the author easily.* Please take a few moments, if you liked the story, to say so.

[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address (it goes directly to your clipboard without having the courtesy of mentioning that to you) to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. Note: If the email address pastes or arrives with %40 in the middle, replace that weird set of characters with an @ sign.]

* Some browsers may require a right click instead