I grew up on a farm in Northwest Nebraska. I guess one might call it a farm, but it wasn’t our family’s primary source of income. The farm had been part of my grandparents’ much larger one. Upon retirement they divided the farm among my father and his five siblings. Thus one can see why it was no longer a large farm. There wasn’t enough land for profitable farm and that’s why my dad was a mechanic at the only auto dealer in town. Yeah, it was a very small town. However, practically all the towns in the part of the state are small towns. My dad’s goal was purchase the lands owned by his siblings and make the farm what it once was. However, that was just a pipe dream.
My dad loved the land and would never admit that his dream would never materialize. He worked eight hours at the auto dealer; and would then drive the thirty miles from town out to the farm. It wasn’t unusual for him to then work until after dark on the farm. I was expected to do my share of the work on the farm. As an only child, my share of the work was more than most ten year old boys often did. I’m not saying that my dad wasn’t a good father, but he was demanding when it came to work.
By the time I was ten I could drive the tractor and could do as much work as boys four or five years older than myself. I likely would have been a sunup to sundown type farmer had my mom not insisted that I have play time. Play time for me just meant that in the summer I didn’t have to work in the afternoon.
Since the nearest neighbor with kids my age was five miles away, my afternoons during the summer were usually spent horseback riding, riding my bike or just reading. I was an avid reader. My mom was an elementary teacher and had always insisted that I read. This was something that I enjoyed and read everything I could get my hands on. Mom would often drive me to the library in town so that I could check out several books at a time. Perhaps because of all the books I read I was a straight A student. The prairie winds seemed to talk to me. They whispered secrets in my ears. These secrets were my own private thought, and the winds just said them to me.
One may think that a bookworm like me would be the nerd type, but I was a big kid for my age. I was also athletic and therefore accepted by the kids in school just as the kid who was smart. I never fit into the cliques at school, nor did I care to. I only had two real friends in school, Justin and J.R. J.R. was always known as J.R. only Justin and I knew that he was John Russell, Jr. Justin’s parents were both physicians, but J.R.’s parents were farmers. Their farm wasn’t much larger than ours.
I’m sure my mom realized that I needed companionship with kids and would often drive me to Justin or J.R.’s house. We were like the Three Musketeers. We would often play basketball or football and then end up at Justin’s house swimming in his pool.
Although I did spend some time with my two buddies, my summers were less than exciting. I didn’t mind the farm work, but I knew that farming was not my occupational ambition. My dad never really said that he appreciated how hard I worked. That just wasn’t his nature. I knew that he appreciated my work when he would just pat me on the back. I once overheard my dad say to my mom, “I’m not sure what will happen with the farm when Tyler goes off to college. I don’t see how we could afford to pay someone to do the work that he does.”
I had just finished cutting the last of the alfalfa for hay, and was running past the time that Mom insisted that my work day ended. I knew that Dad would be proud that it was done, but Mom would likely let me have it when I came in for lunch. When I arrived at the house Aunt Barbara’s car was in the drive. This struck me as odd since Aunt Barbara and Uncle Bob lived in Omaha. They rarely came to visit, but they never came midweek. Uncle Bob was my mom’s younger brother. Uncle Bob was my favorite uncle. I guess because he was younger and would often spend time playing with me. However, I thought Aunt Barbara was a pain in the ass. Even my Dad said so.
At least this might give me a chance to sneak in the house without being seen. However this wasn’t very likely since my mom would notice that I was more than an hour late. I decided that my best chance would be to sneak in through the kitchen since Mom would be in the den with Aunt Barbara. “Tyler, get in here,” I heard Mom call as I was sneaking down the hall.
Fuck, I was caught. Not that Mom would say much, but she would “lecture” me forever. “Bathroom, Mom, bathroom,” I said stalling for time.
“Wash up and eat,” Mom said. I thought maybe she didn’t realize the time until I heard, “You know that you’re late. We also have company.”
When I entered the den Aunt Barbara was sitting in Dad’s recliner like she was the Queen of England. Nobody and I mean nobody sat in his recliner. Well, maybe I did some when he wasn’t home. “Tyler, this is Barbara’s nephew Tanner,” Mom said. “After you eat your lunch you can show him the farm.”
“Hey,” I said to Tanner. Tanner was about my age, but smaller. He had dark brown hair and big brown eyes.
“Hi,” Tanner meekly replied. It was obvious that Tanner was uncomfortable being here.
I quickly ate and then said to Tanner, “Want to see the farm?”
“Yeah, I guess,” Tanner replied as he looked down at the floor.
“What do you want to see,” I asked Tanner?
“Nothing,” Tanner said. “I don’t care about any damn farm.
“Don’t be so damn pissy.” I sharply replied. “Mom, said to show you around and that’s what I’m offering.” Immediately Tanner’s head dropped and he looked like a whipped puppy.
I right away felt sorry for snapping back at Tanner. “Look, I’m sorry for snapping back at you. If you want to see the farm, fine. But, if you don’t that’s fine too.”
“That’s okay, I don’t belong here or anywhere,” Tanner said with tear in his eye.
“What do you mean,” I asked as I took his arm and led him toward the barn. I knew that this probably had something to do with Aunt Barbara.
“It’s nothing,” Tanner said and dropped his head lower.
“Okay if you don’t want to talk,” I said. “But, if it is Aunt Barbara I can understand.”
I could see tears flowing down both of Tanner’s cheeks now as he said, “She don’t want me around. I can’t help it because my parents died. She just doesn’t like me.”
I didn’t know what to say about his parents, but did manage to ask, “What happened?”
“Car wreck,” he said through his tears.
“I’m sorry, and don’t worry about Aunt Barbara because she don’t like anyone,” I said.
“That’s for sure,” Tanner said with a bit of a smile. “Wow, is that your horse?” He asked as if to change the subject.
“Yeah, that’s Bo. Do you want to ride him,” I asked?
“He’s beautiful,” Tanner said. “But I’ve never ridden a horse before.”
“Never,” I questioned?
“No, Never,” he said.
“Come on, I’ll saddle him and you can ride,” I offered.
“I’m afraid,” Tanner admitted.
“He’ll ride double, and I’ll ride with you if you want,” I offered.
“Okay,” he reluctantly said.
“Wow, who’s cows are these,” Tanner asked as we rode around to the pasture.
“They’re ours, but this is just a small farm compared to most around here,” I said.
“You’re a lucky son of a bitch to get to live here,” Tanner said.
“Yeah, I guess I am.” I replied. I really was lucky and not because of the farm, but because I had loving parents. My heart went out to Tanner for the pain he felt.
Tanner really enjoyed the ride, and soon he and Bo became good friends. He was ridding him alone and was really smiling for the first time. I kind of figured that Tanner and Aunt Barbara would be spending the night since we weren’t given a time to be back in the house. Soon our thirst took over and we went in for a cold drink. Mom of course had fresh baked cookies for us. When we had our fill of milk and cookies, Mom said, “Barbara and Tanner are spending the night. Why don’t you two go out and bring in their bags? Barbara can sleep in the guest room and Tanner can have the other bed in your room.”
After dinner Tanner and I went to my room to play some video games. Tanner was actually better than I was. “I used to play a lot when my parents were alive,” Tanner said with sadness. “But, Aunt Barbara wouldn’t let me keep it.”
“Bitch,” I said. Then we both giggled.
The next morning when I woke I saw that Tanner was already awake. “Ready for breakfast,” I asked.
“Yeah, but if I get up before Aunt Barbara I’ll be in trouble,” Tanner said. “I’m not allowed to get out of bed until she is awake.”
“This isn’t Aunt Barbara’s house, besides I smell breakfast that mom’s cooking,” I said.
While Tanner went to the bathroom to pee and wash up for breakfast I quickly went to mom and said, “Mom, Aunt Barbara is mean to him. Please can he live with us?”
“Son, it’s not that simple.” Mom said. “She has legal custody of him. We can’t just keep him.”
“But, Mom he’s so sad,” I pleaded.
“I know he his,” Mom said. “Maybe I can talk to Barbara.”
“Talk to me about what,” Aunt Barbara said as she entered the room.
“Tanner is having such a good time, and we thought maybe he could stay for a while,” Mom said.
“Well Bob and I were planning on going to Europe for a month, and I was going to ask if he could stay with you,” Aunt Barbara said with obvious relief.
“Tanner is welcome to stay as long as he wants,” Mom said.
“I really wasn’t expecting for him to come and live with Bob and me,” Aunt Barbara said. “But, the only other relative is my Uncle Walter. We can’t let him go there because Uncle Walter is gay.”
“Barbara what in the hell does that matter, gay men can be good fathers too,” Mom said with authority.
“No, that’s just not right,” Aunt Barbara said. “So, I guess I’m stuck with him. Besides, Tanner has a nice trust that I don’t want Uncle Walter getting his hands on.”
“Like I said, Tanner is always welcome here,” Mom said as she realized that Aunt Barbara only wanted Tanner’s trust.
I’ve never seen anyone as happy as Tanner when he was told that he would be with us for the next month. “But, I’ll eventually have to go back,” he said with sadness over breakfast one morning. “I just wish I could stay here.”
“Don’t think about it and enjoy your time here,” Mom said as she hugged Tanner.
Having Tanner around was like having a little brother. I think he felt the same about me. Justin and J.R. accepted him and he was one of us. But, all too soon the time for him to go back to Aunt Barbara was near. The last week of having Tanner arrived, and after breakfast Tanner hugged Mom and said, “I wish I didn’t have to go back to live with Aunt Barbara. I like it here.”
“Maybe you won’t have to go back to Barbara,” Mom said.
“You mean I get to stay,” Tanner said with delight?
“Well not exactly,” Mom said. “But, I did talk to your Uncle Bob and he has convinced your Aunt Barbara to let you go live with your Uncle Walter in Houston.”
“But, Mom why can’t he just stay here,” I questioned.
“Barbara and I haven’t exactly been the best of friends,” Mom explained. “She just wasn’t about to let him live here. But, Bob told her that either Tanner stay here or he goes to his Uncle Walter. Otherwise he was filing for a divorce. She of course chose Uncle Walter. He’s buying a house so you can have a real home. I talked to him on the phone last night. He seems really nice and is looking forward to having you there, Tanner. You’ve met him haven’t you?”
“Yes, he’s nice, but I like it here,” Tanner argued.
“Tanner, we’d love to have you. But, it can’t be. Isn’t going to your Uncle Walter better than living with Barbara?”
“Yeah, I guess,” Tanner admitted.
“You will have a little more time with us.” Mom explained. “Your Uncle Walter wants to get moved into the new house and get everything ready for you. You get to stay until school starts back.
“Wow cool,” we both exclaimed. We then rushed out to do our daily work assignments. I had discovered that Tanner was a good worker and learned fast. We often made short work of Dad’s daily work assignments. At night we would lie in our beds and plan our future like we would always be together. Neither of us was willing to accept the fact that Tanner would be living in Houston and I would be in Nebraska.
All to, soon the time came for Tanner to go to Houston to live with his Uncle Walter. Walter was his great uncle, but he was just a few years older than Tanner’s parents. Neither boy said much on the long drive to take Tanner to Denver for his flight to Houston. After, it had all been said. They had promised to call and write often.
Tanner called the next day after his arrival in Houston. His uncle was even nicer than he remembered. He even had a puppy for Tanner. “He has a boyfriend,” Tanner had whispered in the phone to Tyler. “But, he’s nice too. They even sleep together,” Tanner giggled.
“What do you suppose they do,” Tyler wanted to know?
“I don’t know, but when I got up to go get something to drink I heard sounds in their bedroom,” Tanner said.
“What kind of sounds,” Tyler inquired.
“Sex sounds,” Tanner laughed.
Tanner and Tyler called each other often. But as time passed they would only called on occasion. Eventually even those calls stopped.