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The Leapling

by Nicholas Hall

Chapter 6

"In peace there's nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favor'd rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect."
(William Shakespeare – King Henry V)

I felt the head of Aidan's stiff cock begin to swell, his breathing more excited, and his balls, in their tightening sack, start to twitch. I quickly inserted my middle finger in his rear portal, found the walnut-sized prostate gland, and began flick, flick, flicking it! He thrust deeper in my throat, the tube on the underside of his manly piece throbbed, pulsed, and swelled signaling his essence was beginning the journey to the widening slit at the end of his large, plum shaped cock-head. I pulled back as he began to spurt his ejaculate into my mouth so I might capture its voluminous quantity! As my mouth filled, I swallowed, then swallowed again and again, until he subsided in his release. I know there are those who think it's not quite the right thing to do, swallow cum, but since the very first time I fellated him, I enjoyed the taste! It was uniquely him; he often commented after, we sixty-nined, how much he delighted in my taste as well.

Aidan produces more than the average volume of semen when he ejaculates, at least substantially more than I do. Whether what he spurts out like a small fire hose is more than average, I guess I just don't have a clue! What I do know is, not only is his cock a mouthful, but what is produced by his testicles and prostate is as well.

Rolling over on my back, I heard the scampering of boys' feet heading toward the stairs. It was morning chore time and they were on their way. It was only the second day in our house and they remembered without any reminder from one of us. They were a wonderful group of teens and pre-teens to have here. They'd only arrived Friday late in the day, but it seemed as if they'd been part of our life for a long time.

It wasn't long until I heard the shower running in Chance and Tommy's room, so I nudged Aidan, "Time to get up!"

"How about a shower?" he suggested.

How could I turn an offer down like that; getting everything on my body gently and sensuously washed by the hands of my lover?

Avery was at the kitchen table enjoying his morning coffee and visiting with Carissa and Estele. Their conversation seemed to be happy, content and comfortable with each other.

Breakfast consisted of pancakes, eggs, and burritos, with sausage, chopped vegetables, cheese, chili beans, and hot sauce to either stuff the tortillas with to make burritos or to eat with pancakes or eggs or all of them. These boys were a hungry bunch! As I poured Aidan and me a cup of coffee, Aidan inquired where the ladies gained the experience in cooking rather than just at home. For Estele, it was entirely at home, but with all of the boys to feed, especially when her husband and Carissa and her husband worked, she soon learned to cook in quantities. Carissa, although working the fields during the seasons, in the off season worked as a short order cook in restaurants. Sometimes she worked in restaurants specializing in Mexican food and other times in those specializing in American foods.

"I'm finding the boys are pretty accepting of either," she said, "although they do tend to prefer more American rather than Mexican."

With that said, they came in from finishing with chores; Luis and Carlos set the egg baskets on the counter to begin washing them. Alex and Manny stepped in to help while the others headed upstairs for showers. All of the boys knew they were welcome to use both showers; the one we shared with the Calderon Brothers and the one at the end of the hall.

Breakfast was active with good-natured banter, upbeat, solid or light discussion concerning crops, critters, and anything else which happened to pop up, not unlike the other meals we'd shared since their arrival. Their language was respectful, mindful of who was with them and where they were. All eight boys reflected in their manners, actions, and conversation the excellent parenting they had, even though it may've been a single parent at times.

"Don't you guys ever fight?" Aidan asked to no one in particular noticing how well they seemed to always get along.

Estele quickly answered, "Not so as you'd ever notice! They keep it pretty private if they do."

"Uncle Aidan," Julio answered seriously, "sometimes we're so busy watching each other's backs we don't have time to fight with each other. When it gets right down to it, most times it's just the eight of us so we have to get along and work out our problems with each other. If we don't, then what happens? Besides, we really, really like each other!"

The other boys nodded their agreement, grinned, and the camaraderie around the table began again as if nothing really momentous happened. In their eyes, nothing had, but it was certainly clear to the rest of us the depth of their feelings for each other. All would race to the aid of one of their own and beware those who'd try to do one of them harm.

After breakfast the boys helped clean up and decided they wanted to "go exploring" and see what else the farm had available other than the livestock and poultry. Chance and Tommy volunteered, since they had taken another day off, to show them around.

"When we get down in the timber on the way to the river and the boat landing and dock, watch for rattlesnakes!" Chance cautioned.

Now that gave pause to the chatter, but not for long after Manny said, "If a snake bites you in the butt Julio, don't expect me to suck the poison out!" drawing a bit of a rebuke from his mother and a swat on the head from his older brother, Alex.

I raised an eyebrow questioning Aidan, to which he acknowledged quietly there were rattlesnakes in the timber; "Timber rattlesnakes and Massasauga; they're smaller and really nasty!" I decided the boys wouldn't be the only ones cautious while wandering around outside!

After the boys, Chance, and Tommy left, we spent some time with Estele, Carissa, and Avery discussing the need to enlarge the pantry, purchase another, larger refrigerator, and another deep freezer. With this many in the house, it took a great deal of food and storage would be a problem if we didn't makes some changes and add equipment. The use of the storm shelter or cave next to the house would come in handy for potatoes and other crops, such as apples or similar fresh foods, if there was room in there amidst Avery's wine.

Aidan had some office work he wished to catch up on and left for the office. Avery asked if I'd accompany him on a walk around the immediate farm area, especially the garden he'd recently enlarged and plowed. Nearing the garden, he inquired what I thought we should plant this year. I pointed out it was getting rather late in the planting season, but there were some crops which should mature before frost, although it might be close. I recommended we just fertilize the ground with manure this year in order to add nutrients and tilth in preparation for planting next year. I also suggested we try to find a piece of ground where the soil wasn't quite so "heavy," "lighter" with a little more sand so root crops such as potatoes, carrots, onions, turnips, and rutabagas would grow to a fullness of size without the constriction of the heavier soil.

"We can buy potatoes and other vegetables in bulk from farmers' markets or direct from some of the farmers south of here," I proposed.

Hearing my suggestion, Avery grew somewhat nostalgic, noting they used to grow such crops years ago and some of his relatives still did.

"Momma used to organize canning and food preservation parties during those lean Depression years. She'd gather the ladies together and they'd pick apples, can them, make applesauce and can it, or dry them, or just put them in the root cellars for storage. She'd also do the same with other crops growing in the gardens. She was determined, with her share of the profits from 'Mudpuppy's' she was going to do some good with part of it. Nobody was going to starve if she could help it!"

As he talked, I realized he was sharing with me the intimate parts of his life, deciding at some point I should be the one to know, preserve, and define his legacy; all those little and big incidents he'd experienced and seen, including those deep, personal relationships and feelings he'd probably never shared with anyone, other than his lovers, before, and those secrets he held very few knew. Why he chose me, a twenty-two year old, after knowing me only a few short weeks, was a mystery, but his trust and candidness was humbling and I took it willingly with care and honor, wanting to do justice to it as he, and now me, desired.

Ruth Morgan, Avery's mother, did more than just have "parties" so people could help each other survive, but used her personality, her strengths, and her son's influence as a businessman and known benefactor to the town and many, allowed nothing to stand in her way. People rallied around her and him after Leo's death in 1932. Unemployment that year hovered around twenty-four percent and approximately five thousand banks failed! The impact of their failures and the unemployment was felt in Morgan's Landing, causing those former residents from far away who lost their jobs, to return home in an attempt to survive and provide for their own families by living with relatives.

There were other, darker, more sinister forces at work in a world suffering from the Great Depression and a devastating war previous to it. Mussolini in Italy was consolidating his power, extending Italy's territory through military means. Adolph Hitler was maneuvering Germany so as to increase his power over the state, which would have a disastrous future effect on the world and on the Morgan Family. The Emperor of Japan, Hirohito, was hegemonic in his quest for Japan's greatness and growing need for raw materials, mainly oil.

Avery was no fool; reading, absorbing, thinking, and planning for what he, and his brother Robert in Hawaii, could see looming as a crisis of a military nature! One miscalculation, one wrong word, one small incident could set off a conflagration which would be costly and difficult to stop! He began planning, if such would occur, how he'd react, how he and his family would survive, how the community would survive, and how he just might make a buck in the process.

In 1933, the Dust Bowl hitting the west was cataclysmic for many people and exacerbated the hard times the country was experiencing and trying like hell to recover from. The failed crops, farms lost, and families disrupted through migration also brought economic opportunity to Avery. He owned land, had access to water, owned businesses, and had agricultural products to sell.

When Prohibition was finally repealed, he took advantage of it, changing the name of "Mudpuppy's" to "Mudpuppy's Saloon and Steakhouse" and promoted the hell out of it by continuing to be the area's benefactor, bending the law, if not breaking it, and making significant political "contributions" to the campaigns of those individuals who'd benefit him and Morgan's Landing.

Avery and I left the garden area and, as he motioned in the direction of the barn, said, "I'd like to show you something we've not used in many years."

Behind the barn, in a small clearing on a slight hill sloping off toward the west, was a small, concrete building, perhaps five foot wide, about as deep, six to seven feet tall with a metal roof and metal door. Topping the structure was a metal chimney and around back on the downhill side where the lower part of the building was visible, was another metal door giving access to that portion. The building still resonated with a slight smoky odor giving rise to the conclusion, in my mind, it was an old smoke house and a well-used one at that.

"Have you tried the smoked fish at "Mudpuppy's?"

Of course I had; if you order a beer there's smoked fish on a plate to snack on while you sip the suds.


"It was Francisco's idea!" Avery exclaimed proudly. "He figured the salt, the smoke flavor, and taste of the fish would encourage customers to drink more. He was right! We served carp then as we do now! The river was full of them and Buffalo fish as well, so it was cheap. Now we buy it and it's not quite as cheap, but people love it."

We looked over the smoker and as we did, Avery decided he'd have the shop repair it where needed and maybe use it again.

"I think our boys would enjoy smoking the fish they catch, don't you?"

I just nodded, it was something he wanted our extended family of boys to enjoy as he and Chance did.

"We used to use corn cobs mixed with either Hickory or Maple wood. Nowadays, with so few corncobs available, we'll just use the wood. Francisco suggested using the corncobs; people were using them to heat with and we had plenty so why not?"

Francisco was correct in that and innovative in many things and many ways. He became a shrewd business partner for Avery and, if it were true, which I have no doubt listening to Avery, an imaginative and consummate lover as well!

Stepping back away from the smoker and walking back toward the hen house, Avery spoke, with a longing and sadness, yet joy; "That first night at home, when I welcomed him to my bed, he approached me naked, walking toward me with a grace so fluid, he appeared to be Aphrodite in the flesh, an Adonis whose sole purpose and desire was to pleasure me as he pleasured himself."

Francisco eased himself into Avery's bed, lowering his warm, soft, smooth flesh against Avery's until their crotches touched, Francisco's full pubic bush melded with Avery's, their now unattired cockheads revealed with their growing stiffness, lining up against each other in casual measuring, causing Avery to realize Francisco was more than adequate; in fact, thicker and longer with a wide drooling head, offering Avery more of a challenge than Leo ever had!

"Javier is physically constructed so much like Francisco," Avery signed reminiscing, pausing momentarily in his dialogue before proceeding, "it's a wonder Efrain can secure him tightly, butt-cheeks to crotch, when they make love."

Avery, reacting to Francisco's presence and desire, as well as his own, wrapped his arms around him and allowed his soon to be lover to minister to him tenderly, amorously in their intimate and pleasurable act of love!

Francisco began his journey at that small hollow in Avery's neck, the pleasurable spot where a flicking of a warm, moist tongue, a feathery kiss of lips sends shudders down and throughout the body, reflexing the stomach and pelvis muscles, increasing the blood flow and supply to that most sensitive organ bringing it to full tumescence.

Allowing his tongue and lips to wander from neck to forehead, to cheeks, to lips, tickling them with his tongue seeking permission for entrance and receiving it, Francisco swept the inside of Avery's mouth, tasting him, and upon engaging his lover's tongue, gently sucked on it before withdrawing to migrate further down the smorgasbord of delight presented to him! Avery's flesh, goose-bumped body reacting to the sensations, felt Francisco's lips move to his breasts, where, first one and then the other, were suckled into eraser hardness bringing a moan and shiver of delight from Avery!

Avery twisted slowly, arching his back, thrusting his hips upward, his very nerves, heart, and mind calling for more, signaling Francisco he was his to do with what he wished and both desired. Francisco's patient love-making, while feeling his own increasing lust, lingering at the breasts, then moved, using his nose to softly trace a path to Avery's navel, lingered there for a moment, before burying that organ in Avery's pubic bush, ripe with the manly smell of desire and sex! Nuzzling back and forth, inhaling the intoxicating aroma of his lover, Francisco used his nose to nudge Avery's stiff, leaking cock aside to lap at the bush and the sperm producing orbs below it.

An upward movement, slight but significant, bringing a gasp from Avery, to the swollen cockhead perched on the shaft emerging from the thick, black, curly forest, focused Francisco's attention on the swollen head, the meatus, now partially revealed by the retracting foreskin, seemed to almost scream to him to taste and savor just one or more of the clear, sticky drops leaking from the slit! Carefully his lips enclosed the end of the warm, velvety smooth shaft, sucking it carefully into his mouth, using his tongue to push back the remaining foreskin, securing it behind the glans ridges, before sucking deeply of the sweet nectar. Avery groaned, thrust his hips, but was thwarted as Francisco pulled off, not wanting him to cum yet, but only take him to the edge, causing Avery to cry for release.

Release came, for both of them when Francisco pierced Avery's dormant anal rosebud, that most special portal to the body, not used for this purpose since Leo's death, sinking himself to the very limits of his body, resting his large balls on Avery's, bonding them properly, and began to rock! It was the first of many times Avery and Francisco made love while they were together and each time, Avery felt, it was a new and complete experience.

"Do you know what I mean, Nelson?" he asked.

I nodded, acknowledging I felt the same each time Aidan and I made love or kissed or just held each other. I was only complete when he was with me. It was a feeling I was certain other lovers felt; lonely, apart, not being "whole" without his partner near.

Avery and I walked and we talked.

"I think I'll get some Bantam chickens," he commented thoughtfully, "Luis and Carlos would enjoy them, I think!"

Bantams or "Banties" as they are most commonly called, are a smaller bird, larger than a Cornish Game Hen, but smaller than a regular sized chicken most often found in farm yards and in supermarkets, and quite feisty! A Bantam rooster can be a fierce adversary, much like I think our boys could be if put in a situation calling for a fight in defense of one or the other of them.

"Francisco brought that idea to me. We could offer a chicken dinner with smaller whole chickens or parts of chickens and make money, so we raised one damn bunch of the little birds;. People loved them! The smaller eggs did cause some problems in baking, but served as scrambled eggs or even fried, they were more than adequate."

Avery paused for a moment, seeming to wax melancholy, thinking of something else, perhaps another fond and now sad memory of his times with Francisco, before announcing,

"I think I'll have the basement of the house remodeled; put in a television down there, along with a pool table and other stuff so it becomes a place where the boys can hang out. Yeah," he concluded, "make it a real family room."

The basement already was partially finished; a laundry room with the two washers and dryers, Avery's office containing his desk, safe, and filing cabinets, a wine cellar, the furnace room where heating, electrical and water sources were located, a door, near the wall to his office in a small hall, opening to the tunnel leading to the cave, and the enlarged pantry or storage area he was having constructed under the stairs.

I wanted to remind him the boys wouldn't be around in a few years. It may not be the place they'll call home and they were biologically totally unrelated to him, but I didn't! Instead, he answered my unspoken questions and doubts, continuing,

"Before breakfast, Estele, Carissa, and I discussed the possible remodeling and Estele was the first to comment how this house and farm seemed to be built for boys where they could grow, play and enjoy life. Carissa told me, even after such a short time, the boys were starting to feel like this was home, something she didn't think they'd ever felt in any other place."

He furrowed his brow, reflecting aloud, "I'll have to discuss with Chance, although I know he'd feel the same way."

Looking at me, as if to confirm I was hearing and understanding what he was saying, declared,

"All of this is his after I'm dead and buried; he's my only heir and rightfully so!"

Avery seemed to always have boys around, working and living, at Bend in the River Farms. When Leo was alive, during the time of his intense love of and with Francisco, and up until Chance arrived, there were boys! Even after Chance's did come to live at the farm, there were boys, albeit fewer, working and living. There were those who needed work, a place to live, or friends of Chance's who were in residence. The house was full of happy teenage chatter most of the time. It was a sound Avery enjoyed!

There were those "tongue-cluckers" who'd comment, although not to his face and then to a very selective audience, disgustedly, he only kept teen boys around so he could "satisfy his carnal perversions!"

"No," he snorted with a twinkle in his eyes commenting and denying the accusations he related to me, "well…" pausing, "perhaps not all of them –perhaps a couple or so!"

Avery never accepted or sought another lover after the death of Francisco, but he didn't become or remain celibate either! He was not one to pass up an opportunity either as a pitcher or a catcher! The one and only time, he confessed, he settled between the warm, firm, but soft, inviting buns of a lad less than sixteen years of age, driving his steely cock deep to the base, firing shot after shot of his sticky liquid into the bowels of the young black man underneath him, he was definitely surprised and concerned!

"Honest to God, Nelson," he said shaking his head even after so many years passed, "I thought he was seventeen or eighteen years old. My pecker wilted when he turned his face to me and asked, 'how did it feel to fuck a thirteen year old?'."

What confused him, according to what he was telling me, he'd never fucked a black male before! He thought the sparse, curly, black hair at the base of the lad's long, thick cock, resting over a very large sac of balls, was the normal physical attributes of a black man. He'd heard enough stories, without visual experience except for some of the pictures Leo had around (all selected by Leo for cock size), of the size of black cock, he had no reason to think otherwise. He discovered, later on, the young man was an anomaly, even among the African-American community. The discovery of the young man's age, however, didn't prevent Avery from allowing the boy to mount him, fuck him hard, and spew his load deep in Avery's intestines.

"Gave him fifty bucks and sent him on his way home to Rock Island the next morning!"

This wasn't the only surprise and concern Avery had in 1938! Robert's letters from Hawaii, written from a military man's perspective, increasingly gave cause for concerns of impending war. Radio, newspaper, movie news clips, and magazine articles describing events in Europe and the Far East only confirmed what Robert was cautioning his younger brother and the rest of the Morgan Family about.

In February of 1938, Hitler seized control of the German Army and placed his own loyal thugs, members of the Nazi Party, in key positions. Jewish refugee children were arriving in Britain as part of the "Kindertransport" and in March, Nazi German invaded Austria, and concentration camps were continuing to be built in German occupied territory. Avery was also picking up rumors, from sources he didn't identify to me, of young boys, Jewish and non-Jewish, in Germany and occupied territories, being sorted out according to looks and appeal, for the more elite members of the military and Nazi Party for them to use for sexual pleasure.

In one of Robert's letters, he warned Avery if war should occur, whether the United States became involved or not, people should expect some disruption in trade and shortages of goods and services. It was happening already with the hostile activities kicking up in Europe. He felt there may even be some rationing, especially of those raw materials and other goods used for production of those items needed to wage war. Robert didn't feel it'd last long, however.

Avery, in the next meeting he regularly had with the rest of the family to discuss the farming and other operations they were involved in with him, discussed Robert's concerns with them. Personally, he relayed, he was going to start preparing for what Robert was warning about. Ruth Morgan, now matriarch of the family, reminded them of the rationing in World War I and pushed hard for them to increase garden space, increase the production of meat and poultry, and have space to store goods which might be in shortage.

"It wouldn't hurt," she advised, "to have a milk cow or two; especially if butter, cheese, and milk are rationed or in short supply."

"I knew the shit was going to hit the fan sooner than later," Avery sadly revealed to me as we neared the house, "when Japan declared war on China, then Chamberlin gave away Czechoslovakia, and those terrible nights happened in November when the Nazi's and their thugs attacked homes, businesses, and synagogues of Jews. I think it was called 'Kristallnacht' or night of the broken or shattered glass. All I do know, it was a fucking disaster and every Jew in Germany was forced to wear the Star of David, identifying them as Jews. In my mind, I knew someone was going to have to stop the deranged son-of-a-bitch and I figured we'd be up to our ass in shit before long!"

The bright spot in Robert's letters was his and Melissa's commentary, along with pictures, of young Chance. One picture Avery particularly liked was of Chance and an Asian boy, standing on the beach, both bare-assed naked, big grins on their faces, with the little peckers and balls displayed for the world to see.

"He was such a beautiful boy," Avery reminisced proudly, "and still is!"

We spotted Chance and Tommy leading their band of boys up the lane, coming from the river. Evidently, they'd had a good time the way they were laughing and joking. Before the boys got too near, I quickly asked Avery,

"I don't think you told us everything about Francisco's death, did you?"

Avery sort of shrugged, looked at me as if trying to determine this was the time and place, finally deciding it was.

"No, I didn't," he confessed. "It wasn't good time for the boys to hear such a thing, if there ever really is! Francisco was found face down, pants pulled off, beaten and stabbed to death. He'd been brutally raped and sodomized! There was a broken broom stick handle shoved up his ass with a note; 'Fuck all the greasers first, then send them back to Mexico' written in pencil on it."

"Oh my god!" I muttered, shocked and disgusted. "I hope justice was served!"

"Oh, it was," Avery said with an icy, cold look in his eyes and a thin-lipped sardonic smile on his face which, if either would've been intended for me, would've pulled my balls up tight to my crotch, shriveled my cock so tight you'd have to separate my pubic hairs to find it, and tightened my sphincter to the size of a birds butt-hole before relaxing it as I shit my pants!

"Before winter arrived, a young man stopped by 'Mudpuppy's' and gave me a box containing two small bottles. Inside each of those bottles, well preserved in formaldehyde, was a cock and two balls, still in their sac! According to him, the two men who killed Francisco were caught, hauled to a country road, where they were stripped naked, attached to a barbed wire fence, had their cocks and balls cut off with a pair of kitchen shears, dowsed with gasoline, and burned alive."

With that pronouncement, he smiled waved at the gathering boys as if nothing had ever happened, and I shuddered!

Sunday dinner was filled with excitement as the boys, mostly the younger ones, competed to tell the rest of us what they'd seen and done on their walk to the river down the timber-lined lane. The river was just as wide as they'd heard, dotted with islands and sloughs visible from the boat dock and landing. It seemed as if there were a jillion questions and comments only excited boys could ask and the answers came just as quick as their questions;

"Yes, they could go fishing, but had to wear life jackets even when on shore or the dock."

As if to emphasize the point, Chance pointed out how treacherous the river can be and it held no mercy for the careless boater, fisherman, hunter, or anyone else using it.

"Yes, Uncle Chance is correct; Uncle Avery has a boat and eventually, you'll all get a boat ride."

"Yes, Uncle Tommy is right, it's great duck hunting in the fall and yes, you'll be able to go."

I noticed this particular subject seemed to pique the interest of the older boys, along with the prospects of rabbit, squirrel, pheasant, and quail hunting.

"No, El Jefe, we didn't see any snakes, but we did see a deer and a red fox and lots of squirrels in the trees."

It was quite the mealtime discussion and I don't think anyone enjoyed it more than Avery.

The boys helped clear the table and as they did, I asked Avery how in the world he was able to run a business, cook and clean, and take care of three or four extra boys in the house for so many years.

His eyes twinkled as he responded, "I didn't! Even when Leo was alive, we had help. There used to be a small, two bedroom house- a 'hired hand's house'- located across the lane from this house. I hired a woman, widowed with all of her children grown, to help out. She was with us many years and did a fine job of herding our boys around and making certain everything was done, with their help. She passed away shortly before Chance arrived on the scene and when he did, I realized I needed someone in the house for him. That's when I added on this addition and began remodeling the upstairs. The lady I hired to help out lived upstairs where the Calderon Brothers are now and she and I moved downstairs," he paused, thinking a moment, "in 1944 or 1945. Right, Chance?"

"Late 1944; I was still fourteen, Uncle Avery! The war hadn't ended yet."

Chance and Tommy announced they really needed to go to town and check on "Mudpuppy's" since they hadn't been in since Friday. Alex was the first to ask if he could go along and, when granted permission, Julio quickly asked if he could go as well.

Aidan needed to check on some livestock, mainly cattle, and Manny decided to ride with him; I had to check out a hay field and wanted to look over some bean fields to see if there was a need to "cut corn out of beans" and Concepcion wanted to go with me. Javier and Efrain decided to stay home and help their grandmother with laundry; "besides," Javier added, "it's our turn this week." How they established the rotation, I don't know, but I was willing to bet Carissa and Estele had a great deal to do with it. I noticed there wasn't a complaint or concern on the boys' part to do their share, anytime.

Carlos and Luis announced they were going to help their mother get lunches and everything ready for the next day for the older boys to take to work, along with baking some cookies (the real reason they wanted to help I suspect) and then keep Uncle Avery company, evidently thinking he might get lonely. I saw a broad smile cross his face at their "concern."

Concepcion was a great companion to have along. A relatively quiet young man, astute and thoughtful, much like the others; the exceptions were Luis and Carlos, who, I was certain would be of the same temperament and reserve as the older boys as they grew and matured. Concepcion, again like the others, including Carlos and Luis, was a studious young man who excelled in school, and looked forward to maybe attending college someday.

After hemming and hawing for some time, he finally asked, "Did you have any trouble getting a job because you're," stumbling a bit, trying to find how to ask and what words to use, "you know, like boys instead of girls; queer, gay?"

"I don't know, Concepcion," I confessed, "I was never asked and never volunteered it. I guess that's my business and not theirs !Although I'm certain there are those who'd object, so I think I'll just keep my sexual preferences to myself and here at home. People are changing, more accepting, but I don't know how things are around here. You or Javier and Efrain having any problems?"

He thought a moment, finally responding, "No, of course we don't go around shooting our mouths off. Javier and Efrain are fairly open, but most people think they're close because they're cousins. Me, I haven't found anyone yet, so I don't know! In fact," blushing, he confessed, "I've never done anything with anybody except Javier and Efrain and that's just been jacking off!"

I spoke of my own troubles at home and why I left; he talked of their vagabond life and the hard work migrants do for sometimes little money; and how there was always work since most people (meaning "gringos") don't want to do what the migrants do. He also spoke of his mother and his half-brother, Efrain. According to Concepcion, he didn't remember when Efrain was born; he remembered being with his grandma when his mother went off somewhere, as she often did, and when she came back, she was with a different man, and she was carrying Efrain.

"Momma never married that guy either, in fact, I don't think she married any of them. Anyway, she had Efrain and I had a little brother. Kind of fucked up, isn't it?"

Fucked up it might be, but Estele did a great job of raising her grandsons. All eight of her grandsons were extremely good-looking, very intelligent, and had great personalities; each different but great none-the-less.

Concepcion wanted to teach school someday, uncertain of what subject he'd teach but was leaning toward mathematics and science. He didn't know how he'd afford college, however with living and working for Uncle Avery, things just might work out. I had no doubt Avery would see to that and Concepcion would have very opportunity to teach if he wanted to.

Aidan arrived home with Manny about the same time as the two of us did. According to Aidan, Manny absolutely loved working with cattle and seemed to be a natural.

"Never hesitated one minute in approaching the big buggers and seemed really, really interested in livestock!"

Aidan decided he'd talk to Larry Blevins to see if he couldn't find some opportunities for Manny to work with cattle as time went along.

"Larry would be a great mentor for Manny; what he doesn't know about cattle isn't worth knowing!"

Alex and Julio arrived home around eight, announcing Chance and Tommy had to stay late. They were bubbling with excitement; evidently either enjoying themselves at "Mudpuppy's" or just plain giddy about Chance letting them drive his pickup home. Alex drove part way and Julio part way.

Luis and Carlos, visiting with Avery, were wondering what they'd do all week with the older boys working.

"Why," Avery explained seriously, "you'll have your chores to do, help your mother and grandmother around the house, and," hesitating just a minute, adding a little twinkle to his eyes, "tomorrow, after you're done here, you'll have to help me catch a nice mess of catfish!"

I didn't think I'd ever get them to bed as excited as they were! After Aidan and I tucked them in, we happened to overhear Alex talking to the older boys in Concepcion's room.

"Chance says he'd like us to work for him as table waiters and other things when we're not working for El Jefe and Aidan. He says it'll give us extra money to use and save all year long!"

Manny was the only one I heard mutter some complaint, but in the end, acquiesced to Alex's proposition.

Carlos and Luis did catch catfish, more than I think allowed by law, but I don't think anyone complained. The fish were delicious and only the first of many meals the bounty of the river, the woodlands, and fields provided thanks to Avery's knowledge, skills, and patience in teaching all of the boys how to fish and hunt.

Fourth of July was just a week away and Aidan, wondering what this year's float from "Bend in the River Farms" in the annual parade down the main street would be, was met only with silence and grins from Avery, Chance, and Tommy. I suspected something was afoot when Avery insisted on taking all eight boys two days during that week, hauling them to some undisclosed location on some sort of mission. The boys, taciturn as usual when they wanted to be, offered nothing to us!

Aidan and I left for town, alone, on the Fourth of July. Whatever was going to happen would happen without our knowledge! We located ourselves on a curb and waited for the parade to begin. When it came into view, it was led by an honor guard of veterans bearing the American Flag. Rifle over his shoulder, proudly dressed in an army uniform, marched Chance, a veteran, according to Aidan, of the Korean War. The high school marching band followed, then the Grand Marshal (Avery) in a convertible, cars with the local dignitaries (the mayor- a cousin of Aidan's; the county sheriff- another cousin of Aidan's; a state senator- married to a Morgan), and others.

Following this austere group, was the parade queen; an absolutely beautiful, sweet young thing, who would make any lad's heart melt.

"That's my cousin's oldest daughter, Beth," Aidan announced to me proudly.

Finally, the "Bend in the River Farms" float. A hay rack, decorated with hay bales, pulled by a tractor driven by Concepcion with Javier, Efrain, Carlos, and Luis on it, all dressed in cowboy hats, plaid shirts, jeans, and cowboy boots, waving, throwing candy, and shouting out to the crowd! A sign on each side of the hay wagon announced, "Happy 4 th , from your friends at 'Bend in the River Farms' and 'Mudpuppy's Saloon and Steak House.' Try our new Mexican Taco Tuesday –Coming soon!"

Behind the jubilant boys, rode Manny, astride a "Morgan" horse (the breed not the family) cowboy hat set jauntily on his head, feet well set in the stirrups, butt settled easily in the saddle, his bright smile lighting up his face, dressed as his brothers and cousins were on the float, waving at the crowd. But the jewels in the crown, rode behind him; Alex and Julio, broad, white, wide sombreros on their heads, silver sequined vests over black, red, yellow, and white shirts, tucked into wide bottom black pants, decorated with a red strip down each leg, astride prancing, black geldings, saddles and bridles of inlaid silver and black leather, bright smiles on the faces of young, studly vaqueros out to save the maidens (or debauch them as well might be), caused many a young girls heart to throb and, I'm certain bring a certain dampness between the thighs. Oh, it was a sight to see! Evidently the crowd felt the same way, as the boys were met with cheers, encouraging shouts, and loud applause.

At dusk, after the boys indulged in hot dogs, burgers, free ice cream (courtesy of "Mudpuppy's), and carnival rides. They joined the rest of us on the river front at the city park to enjoy the fireworks; all except Alex and Julio.

"They found some girls!" Concepcion informed us.

As the fireworks boomed, banged, and splashed a kaleidoscope of colors across the night sky above the Mississippi River, accompanied by the "oohs" and "ahhs" of an appreciative audience settled on lawn chairs and blankets, I couldn't help to notice how comfortable and deeply akin to each other Efrain and Javier were. Seated on a blanket, Efrain scooted between his legs, butt to crotch, arms wrapped around Efrain and head on his shoulder, Javier had the look of utter contentment and of a young man in love.

"They are so much in love," I commented to Estele, seated next to me. "Too bad Javier has such a guilty conscience for being in love with his cousin. He sees it as incest!"

Estele looked at me oddly, commenting, "Oh, he shouldn't; they're not related at all!"

Before I could seek an answer to her comment, Luis interrupted with "I gotta pee!" Of course, so did Carlos, so I walked with them to one of the many porta-potties and waited until they drained their lizards. By the time we got back, Estele was visiting with Avery and I missed my chance to seek an answer. However, I vowed to seek it as soon as the opportunity arose.

The next day, Saturday as a matter of fact, it was hot, and Alex and Julio suggested we go for a swim. I thought the river would be too dangerous, but Aidan saved the day by suggesting we go to "Barnaby's Beach," an abandoned gravel pit where the water was clear and used for swimming for years. The boys grabbed towels, swim suits (gym shorts or just shorts), and loaded up into our two trucks and wound our way around country roads until we came to a gate, with a "No Trespassing" sign on it, drove down the lane and parked in an open area where a half-dozen other vehicles were parked. The lake was nice, sufficient trees for shade, and water ranging from shallow to deep.

I noticed there was no place to change, but was advised by Aidan we'd just have to change behind or beside the trucks.

"Besides," he confided, "most times this is just 'bare-ass-beach' and nobody seems to care."

Fortunately everyone was fully covered!

Alex and Julio, after quickly changing into shorts, made a beeline for two girls scantily clad in very small bikini's, and started visiting. I gathered this was not their first meeting. The girl Alex seemed to be smitten with was the parade queen (one hell of a looker- remember?) and the girl Julio was courting was evidently a good friend of hers.

While they were visiting and sort of sizing each other up, literally, the rest of us went for a swim. Afterwards, laying on our towels drying off, Carlos, pointing his finger at Alex and Julio and the girls, commented,

"Alex's gonna fuck that girl!"

"Carlos!" I reprimanded, although knowing it was probably going to happen.

"Well, he is," he insisted, "and Julio's gonna fuck the other one!"

"Not before Connie fucks that skinny, brown haired boy!" Luis muttered pointing at Concepcion and a lanky, no-hipped, fairly attractive, younger white boy with brown hair.

As thin as his hips were and a narrow-waist, I couldn't see Concepcion's male appendage fitting up the brown-haired boys butt, but only time would tell. There was also a little blue-eyed girl keeping her eye on Manny, but I didn't bring that subject up!

I finally had a chance mid-week when a rainy afternoon brought hay-making to a halt and the boys home, to talk to Estele. The boys were upstairs taking showers, she was working in the kitchen, and I asked her what she meant by Javier and Efrain not being related.

"My daughter, Concepcion's mother, was always a reckless one; never staying long in any relationship and enjoying the company of men, if you know what I mean!" she said, rolling her eyes.

"She'd left Concepcion with me, as she often did since she never married his father, and took off on another one of her 'adventures.' Concepcion was about three years old at the time. When she returned, about four months later, she had a new man, Guevara was his name, and was Efrain's father. Efrain was about two. She said he was Guevara's son and the mother abandoned the baby. I demanded a birth certificate, and she was right! Well, she and her new man hung around a couple of days and took off, expecting me to raise them both, I think. Must have, since I never heard from her again."

Concepcion insisted Efrain was his little brother and nothing would persuade him otherwise, so they just left it at that! Whenever Efrain would cry or fuss, Concepcion would be there; he'd help feed him, and at night if Efrain fussed, Concepcion would take him to bed with him. As they grew older, Concepcion continued in the roll of big brother and would often come to the defense of the smaller Efrain!

"He was such a beautiful boy and still is!" Estele sighed. "How could I not raise him? He was quite the cuddler and loved to be held. As they grew older, I'd often find him sound asleep snuggled up to his brother." She sighed again, "If I could only get them all not to sleep naked!"

"Estele," I said, "we need to ease Javier's conscience and let him know it's not incest to love Efrain!"

"Well, it's not!" she snorted. "Those two boys have been in love since Javier and Julio moved in with us!"

I brought Concepcion, Javier, and Efrain to the kitchen and Estele told them the same things she told me. There was a definite sigh of relief from Javier, but Concepcion's reaction startled me! He began to tear up, his lower lip quivered, and he sobbed,

"But, Grandma, he's my brother; he's always been my brother and I love him as my brother!" reverting to Spanish.

"Yes, I know," she cooed, taking him into her arms, "and he always will be just as he is my grandson and always will be, but Javier and Efrain love each other and now they know it's not wrong."

"I know that," he moaned, "but they love each other as boyfriends, not like I love my brother and I want him for my brother!"

"You'll always have me as your brother," Efrain said, pulling Concepcion from his grandmother, hugging him, and kissing him. "You'll always be the one I come to when I need my big brother. Concepcion, I love you and I always will; we're brothers in every sense, I'm not a cousin to Javier and you are, so you can't have him!"

That was all it took to break the somber mood and soon everyone was happy and celebrating the good news!

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