After breakfast, Smokey assigned Julius and Hunter the task of driving his old pickup truck to the hay shed, filling it with hay and stacking it in the barn. Julius was a terrible driver. Everything was done with a jerk. Whether stopping, starting or turning, it didn’t matter, he was just plain bad at it. The two boys soon dissolved into uncontrollable laughter. Through his tears born of merriment, Julius miraculously managed to get the truck to the hay shed.
Chucking bales of hay was easy for Hunter, now. Three months at the ranch had seen his body become strong, the muscles in his upper body looked like he had spent hours at the gym. No need for a gym here, he thought, plenty of work to do. With twenty bales stacked high in the bed of the pickup, the two boys climbed back into the cab.
Before attempting to get the truck into gear, Julius turned and looked squarely at Hunter.
Hunter felt himself squirm under the direct examination. “What?” he asked.
“I was just thinkin’. I’m sorry you’re stuck here for Christmas.”
Hunter shrugged. “It’s okay. Yeah, it sucks, but I’ll be okay. I’ll bet Mrs. Fowler can cook up a great Christmas dinner, probably better than Thanksgiving.”
Julius laughed. “That’s about enough temptation to get me to stay!”
“And Smokey needs help with the horses and the new calf we brought in.”
“Yeah. You’re right there for sure.”
“And Sally…she depends on me. Smokey says I’m her security blanket.”
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