Hi, computer. It's me, JD. Vin isn't here right now. Da says he's sleeping and I should do the story by myself. He says he'll come help me save it when I'm done. This weekend was our time to go camping. All the stuff was mixed up so we had to sort it out. And then Vin...
Buck couldn't wait for this weekend. They had plans to take the boys camping. It was all JD and Vin could talk about all week. Buck smiled as he drove towards the ranch, pulling into the drive and up to the house. He was barely out of the truck when a small compact little boy ran into him.
"You're home!" JD shouted the obvious.
"Yeah, Little Bit, guess I am," Buck said as he swung the small boy into his arms.
"We're packing everything we need," JD said as Buck walked towards the house.
"No toys, right?" Buck asked.
"Well, Chris said I could bring two of my little GI Joe's," JD admitted.
Buck knew JD had probably tried to pack every toy he owned. It was still hard to get the younger boy to realize he didn't have to take all his stuff with him wherever they went. When they had first come to the house they had learned that the boys kept everything with them. Buck knew on the streets that's what they had been forced to do or lose it to other homeless people. Slowly both boys learned that the things left in their rooms would be there when they got back.
Buck pushed open the door and walked into what looked like a war zone. Parts for tents, cooking equipment and other various camping equipment were thrown about the living room. Buck saw Vin sitting in the middle of it all trying to sort out the parts of the tent. Buck put JD down and went over to help Vin.
"How's it going, Junior?"
"Alright, I reckon," Vin said as he piled all the stakes together.
"So, what happened?" Buck asked.
"Mice," Vin said as if the answer was obvious.
"Yeah they was in everything!" JD exclaimed.
"Guess we'll have to find a better spot for the camping equipment besides the barn," Buck commented as he sat down and helped Vin.
Chris walked into the living room to find Buck, JD and Vin sitting in the middle of chaos and slowly putting everything in order. Chris just leaned against the wall and watched. It was rare he could observe his best friend and the two small boys together.
JD was trying his best to help as he brought over various items to show to Buck.
Buck looked up from untangling one of the tent ropes to see what JD had. After Buck got a look, he told JD which pile to put it in.
JD ran over to the pile and dropped the object he had and ran to get another.
Chris smiled as he watched the younger boy run around the room. JD had two speeds, full speed and dead stop. JD could run around all day non-stop and then just crash. They would find him asleep in the oddest places. One time JD had been leaning on the coffee table playing then the next thing they knew he was asleep sprawled across it. Chris chuckled as JD ran over with something else to show to Buck.
Vin sat next to Buck helping him with the tents. The older boy was much quieter than his younger counterpart. Vin could sit for hours watching ants or other animals gathering food. Chris had put up birdfeeder outside the kitchen window just so Vin could watch them.
As Chris watched, Vin held the untangled rope up to Buck and smiled.
Buck laughed and congratulated Vin for beating him.
Vin placed the rope carefully to the side and picked up another. As he did Chris saw Vin rubbing his left ear. He'd noticed Vin doing it earlier but hadn't really thought anything of it.
"You okay, Partner?" Chris asked as he walked in.
"Yeah," Vin answered and rubbed his ear again.
Buck looked at Chris and raised his eyebrows. Chris just shrugged and sat down to help. After a few minutes Vin got up and wandered down the hall. Buck had noticed Vin had been quieter than normal but didn't pay it any attention.
"What's up?" Buck asked.
"Nothing," Chris said. "Vin's just been pretty quiet today."
"Maybe he's just being extra good so nothing happens to make us cancel the camping trip," Buck said.
A half-hour later the equipment was finally organized and Chris went in to make dinner. JD was watching a video as Buck wondered what Vin was up to. He wandered down the hall to the boy's room and stepped inside. He was surprised to see Vin curled up on JD's bed. As he got closer he noticed Vin was asleep holding one of JD's stuffed animals up to his left ear. Buck reached out to push Vin's hair off his face and could feel he was a little warm.
"Hey, Junior," Buck said as he gave Vin a shake. Vin moaned and opened his eyes. "What's wrong?"
"Nothing," Vin said as he sat up rubbing his ear.
"I don't feel good," he admitted as he crawled into Buck's arms.
Buck hugged Vin tight and stood up. It was rare for the boy to look to him for comfort so Buck knew he really wasn't feeling good. He made his way back to the living room. Chris saw him walk in carrying Vin and knew something was wrong.
"What's up?" Chris asked.
"Vin doesn't feel good," Buck said as he handed the blond over to his friend.
"Vin, does your ear hurt?" Chris asked.
"Yeah," Vin said in surprise. "How'd ya know?"
"Saw your rubbing it earlier," Chris said. "Guess I better run you over to the clinic and see what they say."
"No!" Vin protested.
"Sorry, Buddy, we have to," Chris said. "Ear aches aren't all that bad ,but if left unchecked it could get worse."
"We'll go with you," Buck said.
"Don't be silly," Chris said as he helped Vin put on his coat. "Dinner's almost finished. We won't be long."
"But, I wanna come," JD cried.
"I'm okay, JD," Vin said. "My ear just hurts some. You don't have to come."
JD watched as Vin and Chris walked to the door. He followed them but stopped on the steps. Buck stood behind JD and they both waved as Chris drove down the driveway.
"Come on, Little Bit, let's go check on dinner."
JD reluctantly followed Buck into the kitchen.
Early the next morning Chris was out helping Buck get Beau and Milagro ready to go. It had been decided last night that Buck would take JD camping even though Vin couldn't go.
At first JD hadn't wanted to go without the seven-year-old, but Vin had finally convinced the younger boy to go. He told JD that he and Chris would stay home and do something together.
Chris knew how much Vin wanted to go camping and was very proud of his son for not whining about not being able to go.
"Here, Buck, I got Milagro's bridle," JD announced as he came out of the barn holding the bridle.
"Thanks JD," Buck said as he took it from the small boy.
Chris turned back to the house and could see Vin watching the from the window. He had wanted to come out to help but Chris reminded him what the doctor had said. Vin just sighed and went to sit on the couch.
"You sure about this?" Buck asked.
"Yeah," Chris said. "It'll give us both some time alone with them."
"Just think, a short time ago we wouldn't have been able to separate the two of them," Buck commented.
"Yup," Chris smiled. "We've made some progress."
"We ready to go yet?" JD asked excitedly.
"Just one more thing to put on Milagro," Buck said as he grabbed JD.
Buck put the laughing boy in his saddle. It was a smaller version of a Buck's saddle that had belonged to Chris's son, Adam. Buck had been surprised when Chris pulled it out of storage for JD to use. When asked, Chris had just shrugged and said it was time it got some use. Since it was only the two of them going they didn't need to take the packhorse. Most of the items were packed behind JD. They were only going for two days and wouldn't need all that much anyway. Buck swung up into his saddle and got settled. Chris handed Buck Milagro's lead.
"Ain't I big yet?" JD asked.
"Not yet," Buck said as he took the lead.
JD didn't like being on the lead when they went trail riding. He said Vin didn't have to so why did he? Buck had explained to JD the rules for keeping Milagro and him on a lead outside the corral was one of them. At least for now.
Chris smiled as he watched JD pout. He knew it wouldn't last long.
"Say good-bye to Chris."
"Bye, Chris!" JD yelled and waved. JD looked up towards the house and waved to Vin. "Bye, Vin!"
Buck turned to see the little blond wave back. Buck waved to him as well and then they were off. They weren't going to go far. The ranch backed up to the national forest and there were plenty of camping places close by. He planned to use the one that would take most of the day to get to but have plenty of time to set up camp before dark.
Chris opened the gate that led past the barn and to the large corrals. Buck passed through with JD and Chris closed the gate behind them. Chris leased out the land to a gentleman who put around 50 head of cattle on it each year. The cattle rarely came close to the house and barn but you'd pass them while riding in the big corral. Chris watched as Buck and JD disappeared over the hill before he walked back to the house.
Now he had to entertain a very disappointed little boy.
"Are we there yet?"
Buck cringed as his riding companion asked the dreaded question. He'd only been asking Buck for the past twenty minutes. At first Buck had patiently told JD, no. Now he was ready to scream. He didn't, of course, and turned to his small companion.
"Not yet, JD. Soon," Buck said.
"Okay," JD said smiling. "Can we go faster?"
Buck knew both boys liked to canter on the horses. At first when they tried it, Vin had almost bounced right off Peso's back. Peso felt the boy starting to fall and stopped. Milagro had been the same way. After a few tries the boys could now stick to the horses like there was Velcro to the bottom of their pants.
"Okay, hold on." Buck said as he kicked Beau.
The big gray moved out and Milagro followed. The trail was wide enough for the two horses to go side by side. Beau didn't mind Milagro being up next to him. When they had tried it with Pony, Chris's horse kept trying to bite the gentle bay or pull ahead to get away. So it was decided that Buck had to lead JD on Milagro.
Buck smiled when he heard JD laughing in delight as Milagro broke into a canter. The abused horse had thrived under their care and loved JD to death. He still wasn't happy with adults but he never did anything mean. They rode up over a hill and Buck slowed the horses.
"Aw! Why'd we stop!" JD protested.
"'Cause were going to do some fishing," Buck said, pointing to the pond in the field to the right.
"Cool!" JD said.
Buck headed down to the pond and let the horses have a drink. The pond was actually on their neighbor's property but he didn't mind them fishing in it. There wasn't much to catch but it was fun for the boys. JD usually preferred to try to catch the large bullfrogs that called the pond home.
"No trying to catch frogs today, alright?"
"Remember how wet you got last time?"
"Oh yeah," JD laughed.
"Well, you don't want to be riding in all those wet clothes do ya?"
"Nope," JD smiled.
Buck stopped the horses and dismounted. He helped JD down then took the horses over to the tree and tied them up. He loosened their girths but didn't take off the saddles. He grabbed the fishing poles off Milagro's saddle and followed JD over to the pond.
They sat down next to the water's edge and Buck handed JD his fishing pole.
"Wonder what Vin's doing?" JD asked with a sigh.
Vin lay on the couch watching cartoons. Chris was in the kitchen making some lunch but Vin wasn't all that hungry. Vin curled into a smaller ball pulling the blankets tight around him. He didn't like being sick.
Chris came back to the den carrying a bowl of soup and crackers. He found Vin curled in a little ball rubbing his left ear. Chris placed the tray on the table and sat down next to Vin.
"How ya doing?" Chris asked, rubbing Vin's back.
"Okay, I guess," Vin sighed.
"Think you could eat some lunch?" Chris asked. Vin shook his head a snuggled deeper into the blankets. "You have to eat something."
Chris needed to give Vin his antibiotics. Vin didn't like taking them because they made him sick. Chris could never figure out how a kid that could eat just about any combination of food and not have a problem would get so sick taking some medicine.
"Come on, Buddy, sit up," Chris said.
Vin sighed and did as Chris asked. He slid off the couch and sat by the table. He took a few spoonfuls of soup and ate some crackers.
Chris could see Vin was forcing himself to eat. He knew it was necessary but didn't make Vin eat that much. Just enough to give his stomach a buffer for the medicine.
When Vin ate half the soup Chris said he didn't have to finish any more. Vin sighed in relief and sat back against the couch.
Chris poured the pink liquid into a medicine cup and handed it to Vin.
Vin pinched his nose and quickly downed the medicine.
Chris smiled as he was reminded of the old westerns when the cowboys down the rot gut in the saloons. He sympathized as Vin shuddered and made a face.
"Why do they make it taste so bad?" Vin asked as he took a sip of water.
"Don't know, Cowboy," Chris admitted.
"Can't I just get a pill?" Vin asked as he rubbed his ear.
"I'll ask next time," Chris said as he ruffled Vin's hair. "Your ear still hurt?"
"Yeah," Vin sighed.
"Come on, I have an idea," Chris said as he helped Vin to his feet.
Chris led Vin into the bathroom and got out the hair dryer.
Vin looked at him like he was crazy when Chris sat on the closed toilet and told him to come closer.
"My hair ain't wet."
Chris turned the hair dryer on slow warm setting and pulled Vin over to him. Chris turned the warm air on the ear that was bothering the boy.
At first Vin pulled away until he realized that really felt good. He draped himself over Chris's legs so he could rest his head on Chris's knee.
Chris held the hair dryer over Vin's ear as he gently ran his fingers through the blond's hair. After a few minutes Chris could feel Vin get heavier and knew he was asleep. He turned off the hair drier and grabbed the cotton ball he'd pulled out earlier and placed it in Vin's ear. When he was done he picked Vin up and carried him back to the living room. He grabbed a blanket and settled in his Lazy-boy with a sleeping Vin in his lap. Chris flipped through the channels and settled on a baseball game. Soon they were both asleep.
"I got one!" JD yelled as he pulled the pole out of the water. As he did the fish wriggled of the hook and plopped back in the water.
"Nice try, JD," Buck said smiling.
"We done yet?" JD finally asked.
Buck was waiting for JD to ask that. They'd been fishing for about an hour and JD had been very patient.
"Yeah, we're done," Buck said smiling.
"Yippee!" JD exclaimed as he ran over to Milagro.
The horse looked up from eating and regarded the little boy with interest. As JD got closer Milagro tried going through his pockets.
Buck watched as JD giggled and pushed the horse away. Milagro seemed to sigh in disappointment and decided he'd liked to be scratched instead. When JD scratched his horse Buck tightened the girth on both animals. Beau blew out his stomach in protest.
"You old fleabag, cut that out," Buck said smacking Beau on the rear.
JD laughed as he watched Buck struggle to get Beau to release the air he'd pulled into this stomach so the girth couldn't be tightened. Finally Beau had gotten bored with driving Buck crazy and they were ready to go. Buck put JD into his saddle and mounted Beau.
The rest of the day was spent riding to get to the camping spot. As they came over a hill Buck saw the perfect place. There was a clearing with a place they could tie up the horses. Buck led JD over to a tree.
"This it?" JD asked in excitement.
"This is it," Buck said.
"Yeah!" JD said as he bounced in his saddle.
Buck helped JD down, then they both took care of the horses.
Once the horses were settled. They put up the tent. After a few minutes helping Buck sent JD off to play with the GI Joe's he had brought with him. Finally the tent was up and Buck gathered some stones for a fire ring. Once they were set up they went looking for firewood. There was plenty in the area and it didn't take them long to get a fire going. Buck took out two cans of beans and pulled the labels off. He opened them with the can opener and put them next to the fire.
"That's all we havin' for dinner?" JD asked.
"Nope," Buck said as he took some jerky out of the saddlebags. "Gonna eat like the cowboys did."
"Cool!" JD said as he settled next to Buck.
It didn't take long for the beans to cook and Buck carefully pulled them out of the fire. He told JD to be careful since the can was hot. They ate their meal as the sun began to set.
When they were finished and Buck pulled out a bag of marshmallows, JD jumped up and down yelling his delight. Buck limited JD to four of the gooey treats. Once they were cooked and eaten JD helped Buck clean up the dinner dishes. JD laughed as Buck just made him throw the cans into a bag that they would take home with them. Buck banked the fire and settled back against his saddle. JD joined him and they sat watching as the stars began to come out.
"What do we do now?" JD asked.
"That's about it," Buck said. "Just sit here and listen to the animals and watch the stars."
"Really?" JD asked.
"Or we could call it a night and crawl into the tent," Buck suggested.
"OK," JD agreed.
It was a warm night and Buck knew they wouldn't need the fire in the morning. He threw dirt on the fire with JD's help, and then mixed it to make sure the fire was out. Buck poured on some water and JD jumped back as the logs started to steam. Buck threw on some more dirt and the fire was mostly out. By the morning the fire would be completely out but Buck would check it before they left. They crawled into the tent and Buck lay back on his sleeping bag. JD did the same but he wasn't tired.
"You sure this is all there is to do?" JD asked.
"Pretty much," Buck answered as he closed his eyes.
JD sighed and settled back. He knew Buck wasn't asleep but he didn't want to bother him again. The riding part had been fun but the camping part wasn't any fun without Vin. JD sighed and wondered what his friend was doing. Suddenly JD sat up as he heard something.
"Hey JD! There's a Scooby- Do marathon on!"
"Yippee!" JD yelled as he bolted out of the tent and ran for the house.
Buck just moaned as he lay on his sleeping bag. It had been decided that after riding Buck would return to the ranch and camp in the back yard. It had been Chris's suggestion. When Buck asked him why, Chris had just smiled and said, 'you'll see.'
"Hey, Stud, want some coffee?"
Buck sighed as he rolled to his knees and crawled out of the tent. He waved to Chris standing on the porch. Buck watched as Chris went back into the house. He could hear the laughter of two small boys as they watched one of his favorite cartoons.
Buck smiled and ran up to the house.
Everyday Heroes Index
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