This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to actual persons living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

This story is copyright by Owen Hudson, all rights reserved. Distribution, including but not limited to: posting on internet sites, newsgroups, or message boards, or in book form (either as a whole or part of a compilation), or on CD, DVD or any other electronic media, is expressly prohibited without the author's written consent.

Dreams Don't Grow on Trees

© 2011 - 2013 Owen Hudson

Chapter Twenty-two

Haden arrived home from his last class of the day - American History, to find Rita in the kitchen baking a cake. "I thought you'd still be at work," he said.

"Oh, I have a lot of comp time that I need to use or lose. It used to not be a big deal, but now that I have a family it is. Get yourself something to drink and tell me how your day went."

"It went fine until my American History class."

"I thought you took Advance Placement American History in high school."

"I thought I did too, but as it turns out, it wasn't an AP class."

"You're smart, I'm sure you'll breeze right through it."

"That isn't the problem; my professor is the most boring teacher I've ever had. Half of the class went to sleep."

"Why don't you CLEP out of your history class, then?"

"What's CLEP?"

"CLEP is an acronym for College-Level Examination Program. I know you could easily pass the test, and you'd get college credit for it. Furthermore, you wouldn't have to sit through a boring lecture."

"I'll check into that tomorrow. Thanks for the advice. Oops, look at the time, I need to go pick up Adam."

"Oh, I meant to tell you, Darrell's picking him up and they're getting haircuts. I offered to pick him up, but Darrell said I'd give in to him, and let him come home to ride Dusty instead of getting his hair cut. That boy certainly loves to ride."

"I thought he'd slow down on his riding by now. He used to ride his bike a lot, but nothing like this."

"That boy does love animals."

"Maybe he should become a veterinarian."

"Haden, you're probably right ... but it should be his decision. Have you decided what you want to do?"

"I haven't decided yet. I'd like to do something where I could work with kids, but I'd have to leave this area to do something like that."

"Why would you have to leave this area? There're plenty of opportunities for that in this area."

"You do know I'm gay, don't you?"

"You are?"

"I thought Dad would've told you."

"No, he never mentioned it. And I certainly wouldn't have ever suspected it."

"Does it matter to you?"

"Haden, you should know me better than that."

"I know, but some people surprise me. They talk about human rights and such, but when it comes to gay rights, they start quoting the Bible out of context - they talk love, but preach hate."

"Talk love, but preach hate - I hope you don't mind if I use that."

"Feel free to use it."

"Unfortunately, you're right."

"I should mention that I'm not out. You know how it is ..."

"Unfortunately, I do know. I've had to place several kids in foster homes, because their parents kicked them out for being gay. Did Brenda attack you because she found out you're gay?"

"Yes, she saw Kyle kissing me and became enraged."

"Darrell did say that she had hit you with Perry's trophy."

"Is there something I can do to help?" Haden asked, as Rita removed the cake from the oven and placed the roast in it.

"You can keep me company ... I'm enjoying this."

"This is something I could never have done with Mom. Can I be honest about something?"

"Of course, you can."

"I was very happy when you and Dad announced you were getting married ..."


"But ... I wasn't sure how it would be with another person living here. With Adam, it was different ... he needed us."

"Oh, but I needed you guys too. Before I started dating Darrell, my life involved working and going to church. Oh, Betty involved me with her family, but it wasn't the same. I know you guys did fine before, but I still feel needed here somehow."

"You are needed, especially by Adam. We all give him our attention and love, but there's something missing without a mother's love. Besides, Amy and I needed a mother figure in our lives too. I think Perry did also. I don't know how much Dad told you, but Mom wasn't a happy person, and she was very difficult to live with."

"Your dad hasn't said much about her, but I assumed as much. I do know that Linda didn't care much for her."

"I hear a storm coming in."

"You do? Oh, you mean Adam's home."

"Haden, will you take me riding?" Adam immediately asked.

"Adam, it'll be dark in less than an hour."

"Well, we could ride for an hour."

"Adam, you'll have this weekend to ride," Darrell stated.

"But Dad ...."

"No buts, no riding this evening," Darrell affirmed.

"Mom," Adam turned to Rita.

"Your dad's already said no," Rita laughed, "don't get me involved."

"Come on, Adam, let's go feed the horses and dogs before you get in trouble," Haden smiled.

"They know it's feeding time," Adam said, when one of the horses nickered. "And so do Brandy and Lucky."

"You can go ahead and feed the dogs while I put out hay, then we'll feed the grain. Jeff didn't have time to feed Scout today, so we need to feed him too."

"Could I feed Dusty?" Adam asked, after feeding the dogs.

"Not by yourself until Dad says it's okay."

"But Dusty's really gentle."

"I know he is, but you know how protective Dad is."

"That's because he loves me, huh?"

"Yes, he does - we all do."

"Where did all of these coffee cans come from?"

"Rita brought them from work. They even have each horse's name on them. A talented person she works with painted their names on them."

"They all know their own stalls," Adam observed, as each horse waited to be fed in their individual stall.

"Yeah, that's why we no longer need to lock them in their stalls."

"When do you think Justin can ride Scout?"

"Jeff rode him today, and said that he's ahead of what he expected."

"I hope he's ready when we go camping over spring break."

"I'm sure he will be, but if he isn't, I think there'll still be a horse for Justin to ride."

"But it wouldn't be the same as riding your own horse."

"Jeff's really good working with horses. I'm sure Scout will be ready."

"Amy's home," Adam observed when he saw her pulling into the garage. "How come everyone but Dad parks in the garage?"

"Well, it's a three-car garage and we have four vehicles. I offered to park outside and let him park in the garage, but he refused. He said he was driving a company vehicle and we weren't."

"Hi, Amy," Adam said, as he gave his sister a hug. "Why are you so late getting home?"

"I'm part of a study group," Amy explained.

"You're smart, why do you need a study group?" Adam questioned.

"I was invited to lead the study group," Amy said.

"I suspect she was invited because she's smart," Rita smiled.

"Well anyway, it's less time that I'll have to spend studying here," Amy explained.

"When's dinner ready?" Adam asked. "I'm hungry ... I didn't get a snack."

"It'll be ready soon," Rita said. "Have you washed up?"

"I don't remember," Adam laughed.

"Then you didn't," Darrell smiled. "Go wash up."

"Could I invite Justin to spend the night Friday?" Adam asked, as he ate.

"If Betty and Grant approve, he may," Rita said. She was enjoying her 'new mother' role. "You can call him after you finish your dinner."

"Would Justin be coming to see you or Scout?" Darrell smiled.

"Probably both," Adam admitted, just before savoring Rita's, made from scratch, cake. "This is really good."

"Thank you, Adam," Rita beamed.

"Jeff's riding Scout!" Adam exclaimed when Haden pulled into the drive with Adam and Justin Friday after school. "Come on, Justin, let's go watch."

"Hold on a minute," Haden cautioned. "Let me pull into the garage before you jump out of the vehicle, and I'll go with you."

"He's doing really well," Jeff said, when the three approached. "Justin, do you want to ride him."

"Yeah, I can't wait," Justin said. "When do you think he'll be ready?"

"You can ride him today, but I'll need to lead him for now," Jeff explained.

"Yeah, that'd be great," Justin smiled.

"You'd better ask your mom or dad first," Haden warned.

"But they're not here," Justin sighed.

"Here, you can use my phone to call," Adam said, as he handed his phone to Justin.

"Hi, Mom," Justin said, after dialing the number. "Jeff said I could ride Scout while he leads him ... can I?"

"Jeff, she wants to talk to you," Justin said, as he handed the phone to Jeff.

"Hi, Betty," Jeff said. "Yeah, he's doing great ... and I'd be leading him. He's never once bucked me. I really do believe he's safe. Alright, I'll tell him."

"What did she say? What did she say?"

"She said it's okay," Jeff revealed.

"Yay," both Adam and Justin yelled.

"I was going to tell you not to make any loud and sudden noises, but it didn't seem to bother him," Jeff laughed.

Justin was all smiles as Jeff led Scout around the barn, into the pasture, then back into the corral. "Okay, take the reins and ride him around the corral a few times; I'll walk beside him with the lead rope," Jeff said. "I won't be leading him; you'll be using the reins - but I'll have the lead rope, just in case I need to take control."

"Do you mean I guide him myself?" Justin asked.

"Only if you want too," Jeff said.

"Yeah, I do," Justin quickly answered.

"We'll go slow for now," Jeff instructed. "Haden, I think we can pasture and feed him with the other horses now. Do you have a stall for him?"

"We don't have one, but we could put him in the space where we keep the riding lawnmower and garden tiller," Haden said.

"I saw that empty space on that side of the barn; it could easily be converted into stalls," Jeff said. "It's a good size area."

"Yeah, that's the area where Grandpa Harrington used to keep the tractor and farm equipment."

"Let's look at it," Jeff said. "Yeah, you don't need all of this space just for a riding lawnmower and tiller. We could get several stalls out of this area. I do some carpentry work, too, and I'd be happy to add the stalls."

"You'd need to talk to Dad about that," Haden said. "He'd be the one paying for it. But I think everyone that wanted a horse has one now."

"Dad wants a horse now," Justin said.

"Yeah, Betty mentioned that," Jeff agreed. "She mentioned that they're expecting an income tax refund, and he wants to adopt a wild horse the way you did. Justin, you have yourself a great horse. I wouldn't mind a horse like Scout."


"Really; he's a fine horse. You made a good choice."

"Could I ride Scout again tomorrow?"

"I have no plans tomorrow. I'll load up my horse and come out and ride with you."

"I want to ride too," Adam declared.

"Sure, it's fine with me as long as your dad approves," Jeff agreed. "Haden, do you want to ride too? I'd like to see how Scout does with other horses."

"Kyle and I planned to ride tomorrow anyway. It'll be great to see how well Scout does. I'm sure Dad will be riding too. Justin, if Steve doesn't ride tomorrow, maybe your dad could ride Duke."

"He could ride Bonnie," Adam suggested.

"Perry said not to ride her much until after she has her colt," Haden said.

"Some light riding wouldn't hurt for now, but we may want to ride for a while tomorrow, so another horse might be a better choice," Jeff said.

"When do you think Bonnie will have her colt?" Adam asked.

"I think maybe in a couple of months," Jeff speculated.

"How do you know so much about horses?" Justin asked.

"I grew up around horses," Jeff said. "Dad said I was born on a horse. Justin, Scout needs to be shod; I can do that for you too."

"What's shod?" Justin quickly asked.

"It's putting horse shoes on him," Jeff explained.

"How much does that cost?" A concerned Justin asked.

"I normally get $150, but if you pay for the shoes, I'll put them on for free," Jeff offered.

"How much are the shoes?" Justin asked.

"The set of four is less than $10.00," Jeff said.

"Great, I have $10.00," Justin smiled big. "Haden, could you take me to get the shoes?"

"Sure," Haden offered.

"I have several on hand ... I can go get them and my farrier supplies, and put them on before dark," Jeff offered. "Haden, since he's never been shod before, I may need your help. We may even need to hobble him, if he resists."

"Sure, and you'd may as well stay and have dinner with us," Haden said. "Amy's cooking dinner; I'm not sure what it is, but I know it'll be good."

"I'd be pleased to have dinner with your family," Jeff beamed. "I'll be back in half an hour. We should have time to shoe him before dark."

"We have lights in the barn, if we need light," Haden said. "We'll go ahead and feed while you're gone."

"I can't believe how gentle he's become," Jeff said, as he trimmed Scout's hooves. "I have to hobble most horses the first time I shoe them."

"I'm glad I picked him," Justin smiled wide.

"There, we're done," Jeff said, after nailing the last shoe on.

"Here's the $10 for the shoes," Justin said, after taking the money from his wallet.

"I can get it from your mom or dad," Jeff offered.

"No, I want to pay it," Justin argued.

"I've never had better chicken and dumplings," Jeff said, as he enjoyed a second helping of Amy's chicken and dumplings. "My mother's are good, but not nearly this good."

"Thank you," Amy grinned. "My aunt taught me how to make them."

"He's right about that, Amy," Rita agreed. "When we have time, I'd like you to teach me how. I tried once, and ended up throwing them out."

"Is anyone ready for apple cobbler?" Amy asked.

"I am," Adam quickly responded.

"I'll have some," Justin said.

"You cooked it ... I'll dish it," Rita offered.

"There's also vanilla ice cream," Amy said.

"I want ice cream with mine," Adam said.

"I already knew that," Rita laughed.

"Dad, did you know that Justin rode Scout today?" Adam asked, in between bites of cobbler.

"Already?" Darrell questioned.

"Yes, Scout is really doing well," Jeff explained. "I had a lead rope, but let Justin actually rein him. Both did great. Tomorrow we're going riding and let Justin actually ride him ... that is, if his parents approve."

"They will," Justin said with crossed fingers. "If Steve doesn't ride, maybe Dad could ride Duke."

"If he does, I'll stay home and let Grant ride Star," Darrell offered.

"That won't be necessary," Jeff said. "I'll just bring an extra horse for him to ride."

"Dad, did you know that Justin's dad is going to get a horse where Justin got his?" Adam asked.

"I didn't know that, but I'm pleased to hear that he is," Darrell admitted.

"The next adoption event is in two weeks," Jeff said. "I hope he can get one half as good as Scout turned out to be."

"Dad, Jeff said that he could add more stalls in the barn, if you wanted him to," Haden said.

"I guess we should think about that," Darrell admitted. "Get me an estimate and we'll talk."

"Since you own the lumber company, why don't I just give you a list of material and a quote on labor," Jeff suggested.

"That'll work," Darrell agreed.

"Justin, I'm sure he's safe for you to ride, but I'll use the lead rope and ride beside you for a while," Jeff said the next morning, as he saddled Scout.

"Alright," Justin agreed.

"Grant, do you need help saddling Buck?" Jeff asked, as the group prepared to ride.

"No, I grew up around horses," Grant said. "But don't tell me his name's Buck, because he's gonna buck me."

"No," Jeff laughed. "I named him Buck, because of his buckskin color. He was a rescue horse too. He was skin and bones when I got him, and look at him now."

"Dad, are we going to ride on Mr. Reed's land today?" Adam asked, as the group mounted their horses.

"We are," Darrell said. "Listen up everybody ... Ray gave us permission to ride on his property. But we have to make sure all of the gates are closed back. Also, don't leave any trash. I know Adam put some snacks in his saddle bag - so don't leave the wrappers on the ground - and I know that he plans to share."

"Dad ...," Adam protested with a wide grin.

"It feels good to be riding again," Grant said, as he rode up beside Jeff and Justin.

"How long has it been?" Steve asked.

"Let me think ... it must have been 15 years or more," Grant admitted. "This makes me anxious to get my own horse."

"Do you still plan to adopt a mustang?" Haden asked.

"I do, and I hate waiting that long," Grant confessed. "I know how anxious Justin was ... now I'm just like he was."

"Dad, what kind of horse do you want?" Justin asked.

"I wouldn't mind getting one like Buck here," Grant said, as he leaned forward and gave Buck a gentle pat.

"I'll tell you what I'll do," Jeff began. "I'll let you have Buck and that saddle, bridle, and saddle pad for $600."

"Hmm, that'd be less than what it would cost to adopt one, buy a used saddle, and pay you to break him," Grant pondered. "And I wouldn't have to wait to ride. But why are you willing to sell him for $600 with a saddle and pad?"

"Well, as a rescue horse - I got him free. I enjoy breaking horses, and I'd like to get one like Justin's. Is it a deal?" Jeff asked.

"It's a deal ... when we get our tax refund," Grant smiled.

"Consider him yours now, then," Jeff said. "You can pay me when you get your money."

"Thanks, Jeff," Grant said. "Darrell, I guess I should've asked you about boarding him first."

"You're more than welcome to board him on my place," Darrell said.

"How much should I pay you a month for the two horses?" Grant asked.

"Darrell, I've been thinking," Steve said. "We need to figure out how much it cost per month and just pay you, rather than trying to keep track of who needs to buy feed."

"I have no idea how much it would cost to feed a horse each month," Darrell admitted.

"Well, you have good pasture and wouldn't need to feed during the summer," Jeff said. "This far south, the growing season is longer, so you'd only need to feed for about four months out of the year. I'd say, if you buy in bulk, it would take about $50 a month during the four months you'd have to feed."

"We can start out with that, and adjust up or down as needed," Darrell said.

"Wouldn't it be better to just keep track of the monthly cost, divide the cost by the number of horses, then let everyone pay that amount for each horse they own?" Haden put forth.

"There you go," Grant said. "That makes sense to me."

"Wow, this is beautiful," Jeff said, when he saw the valley and lake.

"We're going to come here and camp over spring break," Adam said. "You should come and camp with us."

"That sounds like fun," Jeff said.

"Dad, you have a horse now, you could come too," Justin said.

"I just might do that," Grant said.

"Well, I'm hungry," Adam said, as he took snacks out of his saddle bag and began passing them out.

"I didn't say anything," Darrell laughed.

"No, but you gave me that look," Adam said.

"Remember, don't throw your wrapper down," Darrell cautioned.

"We should've brought a bag for our trash," Kyle said.

"We can put it in my saddle bag," Adam offered.

"I'll call Linda and ask her to pick up pizzas for lunch," Steve said on the ride back to the barn.

"I didn't think about lunch," Darrell admitted.

"I did," Adam said.

"You always think about food," Darrell teased.

"Well, like you've said, I'm a growing boy," Adam countered.

"Justin, I can't believe how well Scout did on this ride," Jeff said, on the ride back to the barn. "I believe he's fully broke."

"I passed my History CLEP test," Haden announced during dinner one evening.

"I knew you would," Rita said.

"Thank you again for telling me about the CLEP test," Haden said. "I don't think I could've taken another day of that class. I'll also get home an hour earlier now."

"Cool, you can take me riding when you get home," Adam said.

"Just because I get home early doesn't mean you do," Haden laughed.

"Shoot," Adam said. "I hardly ever get to ride."

"Adam, you ride every weekend," Rita reminded him.

"Yeah, but that's all I get to ride," Adam replied.

"The days are getting longer, you'll get to ride more, then," Darrell said. "And daylight savings time begins in March, so you'll have another extra hour of daylight when you get home, then."

"That's a long time until then," Adam moaned.

"Adam, it's only four weeks," Amy reminded him.

"Yeah, well, that's still a long time," Adam said.

"I think you'll survive," Darrell laughed.

"Who cooked dinner tonight?" Adam asked.

"I did," Rita said. "What was wrong with it?"

"Nothing," Adam said. "It was really good. What was it?"

"Chicken pot pie casserole," Rita said.


"Yes, really."

"Dad, Dr. Bishop's office called to remind us that Adam has an appointment for an eye exam Thursday at 3:00," Amy said.

"Adam, I'll pick you up at school Thursday," Darrell said.

"I'd rather come home and go riding," Adam protested.

"Remember, Dr. Bishop said you needed an eye exam every year," Darrell explained.

"Could I get contacts?" Adam wanted to know.

"You might be a little young for contacts," Darrell said.

"We have a couple of kids in our custody, who are about Adam's age, and they wear contacts," Rita stated.

"Alright, we'll talk to Dr. Bishop about it," Darrell agreed.

"But remember, you have to take care of them," Rita said.

"What do you mean, take care of them?" Adam questioned.

"You have to clean them every day, and soak them in solutions," Rita explained.

"If someone will show me, I can do it," Adam declared.

"Adam, did you get contacts already?" Amy asked when Adam arrived home after his eye examination.

"Yep," Adam smiled big.

"Did Dr. Bishop show you how to clean then?" Rita asked.

"No, they're throwaway," Adam said.

"Because of his age, Dr. Bishop thought it would be better to put him in daily disposable contacts," Darrell explained. "They're more expensive this way, but I feel better about him wearing them."

"I think that's wise," Rita agreed.

"Adam, remember to wash your hands well before removing or inserting your contacts," Amy cautioned him.

"I know - that's what Dr. Bishop told me," Adam said.

"Did you have trouble putting them in?" Haden asked.

"He did well," Darrell proudly stated. "In fact, he did better than I would've."

"I got new glasses too," Adam beamed. "But I only have to wear them when I take my contacts out."

Adam was beyond himself the week before spring break. He made a list of things he planned to take on the planned camping trip. "Dad, will you check my list of things I need to take," he asked.

"You forgot the kitchen sink," Darrell laughed, after checking the list.

"Well, I don't need the kitchen sink," Adam argued.

"It's a metaphor," Darrell smiled.

"What's a metaphor?"

"It's a figure of speech."

"Whatever - what about my list?"

"Unless you plan on taking a pack mule, how are you getting all of this to the camp site?"

"Hey, maybe we could use Grandpa's mule."

"Okay, but how are you getting his mule here?"

"He's right, we do have a lot of things to take out there," Haden stated.

"We'll have to be very selective about what we take," Darrell admitted. "We'll need food for three days, and with Adam alone, that's a lot of food."

"Dad ..." Adam protested.

"Jeff goes on trail rides a lot," Haden pointed out. "He may have suggestions. I'll give him a call."

"Call him now," Adam pleaded.

"I'd may as well, otherwise, you won't shut up until I do," Haden grinned.

"What did he say? What did he say?" Adam asked, as soon as Haden completed the call.

"He said to leave you home, and use Dusty for a pack horse," Haden teased.

"He did not," Adam argued. "What did he really say?"

"He said he'd bring a couple of horses for packing supplies," Haden explained. "He suggested that we go by the feed store and get some compressed alfalfa cubes. He said they weigh a lot less and be easier to bring than regular feed. He also said there's good winter pasture, so we wouldn't need hay. Dad, he also has a portable electric fence he'll bring."

"I wouldn't have thought of the alfalfa cubes," Darrell admitted. "It's good that he has an extra portable fence with as many horses as we'll have. I think I should send Ray a check for allowing us to camp out there. That many horses will eat a lot of his pasture."

"Jeff said he'll come over and help get everything ready, and see what we needed to buy," Haden explained. "I hope you don't mind, but I invited him over for dinner."

"He's always welcome," Rita said. "I'm making beef stroganoff."

"It seems like you're doing most of the cooking lately," Haden observed.

"I love cooking," Rita said. "Besides, you and Amy have homework."

"Adam, are you sure you don't want to take the refrigerator too?" Jeff asked, after checking Adam's list.

"You're as bad as Dad - he asked if I had the kitchen sink on my list," Adam said.

"Dinner's ready," Rita came to the den to announce.

"This is really good," Jeff said, after his first bite of beef stroganoff.

"Yeah, it is," Adam agreed.

"Be sure and save room for the wonderful peach cobbler Amy made," Rita suggested.

"I always have room for dessert," Adam giggled.

"You won't get to eat like this when we camp out next week," Haden reminded him.

"Why, we ate good when we camped out at the lake that time?" Adam argued.

"Yeah, but we had vehicles to haul everything we needed, then," Haden said.

"What will we eat, then?" Adam asked with concern.

"You were smart to make a list," Jeff said. "But we have to limit what we take."

"We should've asked the others to come over," Haden said. "It's hard to remember everything."

"Give them a call and ask them to come over now," Darrell said.

"I'll make some brownies right quick," Rita offered.

"Adam was smart to plan the camp out, but his list is kind of long," Jeff began by holding up Adam's list. "This is very different than camping at a regular camp site with facilities. We'll have to take everything we need with us."

"You didn't have to show my list to everybody," Adam protested.

"No, it's good that you have a list," Jeff said. "I've gone on many trail rides and have learned what to take and what to leave home."

"What should we plan on in the way of food?" Paul asked.

"To me, food is the most difficult thing to plan," Jeff began. "When regularly camping, we could take an ice chest and regular food. I'm bringing a couple of extra horses for pack animals, but there's a lot of things to take. Darrell, are we allowed to have a fire?"

"Yeah, Ray said a fire would be alright," Darrell said. "He did ask that we extinguish it when we're not in the camp."

"Good, if we can have a fire, we won't need to take extra fuel," Jeff said.

"What do we need fuel for?" Adam asked.

"I have a camp stove designed for backpacking," Jeff said. "It's ideal for boiling water."

"I really have to have my coffee in the mornings," Grant said.

"I'm the same way," Steve agreed.

"I know most don't like instant coffee, but it's best if we take instant," Jeff explained. "A coffee pot takes up valuable room on the pack animals."

"I think I can get by on instant coffee for a few days," Darrell admitted.

"Well, what about food?" Adam asked.

"Good question," Jeff said. "There're some things we should leave off the list. For example, we should take potato chips off your list."

"But they don't weigh very much," Adam protested.

"No, but the package is mostly air, and that takes up space," Jeff explained. "If you want a snack, we can take some oil and popcorn; that way, we can all enjoy a snack. It's also a good idea to take snacks like trail mix and dried fruit."

"But what about real food?" Kyle asked.

"We can't take a lot of bulky and heavy food with us," Jeff explained. "Remember, we'll be taking sleeping bags and tents. And those suckers are bulky and heavy."

"What do you suggest?" Steve asked.

"I usually take MREs, or dehydrated food packs," Jeff explained.

"Are they any good?" Haden asked.

"They're good enough for the military," Jeff said.

"Then they're good enough for us," Darrell declared. "Where do they sell them?"

"The military surplus store in Covington has a good selection," Jeff said. "We can get snacks at Walmart."

"You and I can go to Covington tomorrow and get what we need," Darrell said.

"I have to work tomorrow," Jeff pointed out.

"You work for me, don't you?" Darrell reminded him.

"I do," Jeff smiled. "That would take care of people food. We have to remember to get some alfalfa cubes for the horses. Those electric corrals aren't very large, but we can use picket pins for the horses during the day. We need to make sure they get plenty of grazing time."

"Keep a tally and we'll chip in on the cost," Paul said.

"Does everyone have a sleeping bag?" Steve asked.

"We have one that belongs to Joe," Grant said. "I'll have to get one for Justin."

"We have an extra one I'll give him," Paul offered.

"Thank you," Justin said. "Do you mean I get to keep it?"

"Yes, it's yours to keep," Paul said. "We got it for Wayne when he lived with us, but he never used it."

"Don't bring a lot of clothes," Jeff said. "When it's not hot, I often wear the same clothes a couple of days. Also, bring a water bottle. And we should get some water purification tablets too."

"Couldn't we just boil our water?" Kyle asked.

"That would take a lot of fuel to boil enough water for all of us," Jeff said. "We have to add boiling water to the dehydrated food, but we can boil that for about 10 minutes and it'll be safe. We'll also boil our coffee water."

"Some of us don't drink coffee, do we just drink water?" Adam asked.

"You could take some packets of hot chocolate mix," Rita suggested.

"Yeah, we need to buy some," Adam said.

"There's a new box in the pantry," Rita said.

"You could take some spiced cider packets too," Betty suggested. "That would be good."

"Did anyone remember to put toilet paper on the list?" Debbie asked.

"There're no toilets out there," Justin said.

"Yeah, so, where do we go?" Adam asked.

"We go where the bears go," Kyle joked.

"Are there really bears out there?" Adam asked.

"There are a few bears in this area, but they avoid humans," Jeff explained.

"So that's just a metaphor, huh?" Adam asked.

"Yes, Son," Darrell smiled.

Under Jeff's guidance, the list of supplies was soon narrowed down to a manageable amount. And all were looking forward to the trail ride.

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