Chris opened his eyes to a high pitched sound that vibrated through his head. Had he gotten drunk last night, and have a hang over?
No, no he'd headed straight home. He had promised Vin to help him with his history project.
The high pitch sounded again. Moving his head, he saw Vin as he came running into the room, JD fast on his trail.
"Tell Vin to let me play with the scoon's hat," JD's excited voice carried across the whole room.
"No, JD, done told ya it ain't for playing with. It's for my history project. I don't want it to get dirty or messed up. And it's a raccoon hat. Not scoon hat," Vin answered firmly.
Chris could tell this argument had been going on for a while, and figured he also knew what the source of the high pitch sound he had been hearing was.
"JD, it isn't for playing with, but maybe after Vin does his history report and it has been graded, he'll let you play with it, alright?" Chris sat up in bed, wishing he'd had the foresight to purchase one for each of the boys.
"But Chris, that's a long time off," JD complained.
"It isn't that long, JD. Vin does his report Monday morning." Chris smiled, "Hey, isn't that pancakes I smell? Why don't you go help Buck fix them while I get dressed?"
At the word pancakes, JD had run out of the room, but Vin remained at the edge of the bed looking at his father.
"Something wrong, cowboy?"
"Nope, just waiting for you."
"Well, why don't you go save us some pancakes? I'll be there in a few minutes."
"OK," Vin nodded and left the room.
After a quick shower Chris entered the kitchen to find two small and one very large boy sitting at the table working through the stack of pancakes.
"Hey, you going to leave any for me?" Chris grinned as he poured himself a cup of coffee.
"You better hurry, Stud. I think those two have a pancake monster hidden somewhere under the table," Buck laughed.
The morning went quickly as the family cleaned up from breakfast and then started on the day's chores. It wasn't until after lunch that Vin asked, "Dad, can we work on my history project now?"
Chris knew Vin wanted to finish before their family movie night and tomorrow was filled with a trip to see the Titanic exhibit at the Denver museum with their uncle Ezra. "Sure, why don't you get your report and the poster board we bought to make your display?"
Vin's anguished cry of "No!" had both men hurrying into the family room where they found Vin holding what was left of the raccoon cap. JD stood nearby sniffling and holding Elvis by the collar.
"What happened?" Chris asked.
"I just wanted to see how Elvis would look with the scoon hat on. I didn't know he would eat it. I tried to pull it out of his mouth, but it came apart. I didn't mean for it to happen," JD cried, tears rolling down his cheeks.
Vin looked devastated.
Chris felt he could hear exactly what his son was thinking. Vin had told him how Eli Joe had been telling everyone that Vin didn't really have a cap. "Vin," he called softly, sliding his hand onto his son's thin shoulders.
"It's gone," he whispered turning into his dad's arms.
Buck took JD from the room and threw a look of sympathy at Chris who was consoling the upset boy.
"Hey, cowboy, come on. It'll be all right."
"No, it won't. Monday they's all goin' call me a liar and I won't have the show part for my report."
Chris, looking up at the clock, made a quick decision, "Yes, you will. I have enough time to go back to that old trading post where we got the cap last weekend."
"Really, but I have to go now, if I want to be back in time for our movie night," Chris said, giving Vin one last squeeze before letting the child out of the hug.
Chris grabbed his keys and wallet, then stopped at Buck's doorway. "I'm going to run back to the trading post outside Boulder and get another cap."
"Chris, that's a good hour and a half drive one way," Buck exclaimed. "I know Vin's upset, but I'm sure he can use something else. Maybe Ezra can stop at one of the stores in town before they go to the museum. It's crazy to drive all that way for a cap. Not to mention the threat of storms and high winds they have been predicting for the afternoon."
"Normally, I'd agree with you, but with those boys telling everyone that Vin lied about having a coonskin hat, if he doesn't show up with it, it'll look like they were right. Vin's finally starting to show confidence in school. It could set him back, and Boulder is the only place I know that has the real thing."
Buck finally nodded, "Well I told JD that he owed Vin an apology and a promise to never touch anything of Vin's again without permission. He'll also be doing some of Vin's chores and there will be no McDonald's for a week."
"Bet the McDonald's is what hurt the most," Chris smiled.
"Oh yeah, you would've thought I said the world just ended."
The men entered the room as JD finished up his apology to Vin.
"It's okay, JD. I know it was an accident. We's still brothers."
"OK, I'm going," Chris announced. "I should be back in about three and half hours, give or take.”
"Can I go with you?" Vin asked.
"No, you work with Buck to get your Quill feather and that old ink well attached to your board. That way all we'll have left is the cap," Chris suggested, realizing that he might be pushing the speed limit on this trip.
"Okay. Thanks, dad." Love shined in Vin's eyes for his dad.
Chris had been lucky and there was little traffic on the road both going and coming back. He breathed a sigh of relief as he took the last exit off the interstate. He was only a half hour from home and the cap lay in a bag on the seat beside him. He hadn't liked the look of the sky when the rain had started a while back and now the wind was blowing with enough force that he had to fight to keep the truck on the road.
"Hi, Buck," Chris answered the ringing cell phone, "I just got off the interstate. Why is JD making that high pitched wail?"
"Chris, JD isn't, that's the..."
Chris shifted in his seat and realized something wasn't right. 'Why are my eyes closed?' Opening them he realized he was looking at the world sideways through the front windshield of the Ram. "What the hell?"
Flashing lights gleamed off the glass and Chris realized that the wailing had actually been the sound of sirens, as he remembered the day’s events.
"Sir. Sir, can you hear me?" Chris heard the voice before a face appeared in the window.
"Yes, I hear you. What happened?"
"A tornado, sir. The wind sent a tree into the side of your truck and knocked it into this gully," the paramedic explained after dropping in through the busted side window. That tree might have saved your life. A few more feet and the main transformers would have landed right on top of you. It picked up the whole cage and dropped it in the middle of the road."
Chris flinched as the man checked the knot and bruise on the side of his head.
"My family. They live thirty minutes east of here. Which way did it go?" Fear clutched his chest.
"No, sir. It went straight north, but it seems to be breaking apart and dying out. How about we get you out of here? I'm sure your family would like to know you're alright. You can call them from my cell as soon as we get you in the back of the ambulance."
Chris was soon being helped through the broken window by additional rescue workers. The paramedic was about to follow when Chris refused to move from the opening.
"Hey, grab that bag."
"Sir, you can get your stuff later once we get your truck pulled out."
"I'm not going anywhere without that bag. You have no idea how important it is."
The man shrugged and grabbed the bag.
Moments later, Chris sat in the back of the ambulance and accepted the offered bag. The paramedics waited patiently to see what was so important within the package.
"I don't understand, it's just a souvenir hat," the medic puzzled.
"No, it's more than that. It's my son's raccoon hat."
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