I grew up on a farm in Northwest Nebraska. I guess one might call it a farm, even if it isn't our family's primary source of income. Our farm had once been a part of my grandparents' much larger one. Upon their retirement, they divided the farm between my father and his two siblings. Thus divided, there wasn't enough land for profitable farming, so my dad works as a mechanic at the only auto dealer in town. Yeah, it's a very small town, however, practically all the towns in our part of the state are small towns. My dad's goal is to purchase the lands owned by his siblings and make the farm what it once was. One brother had already sold his portion to an older brother, who also wants to buy the portion owned by my dad. Although Dad's dream is just a pipe dream, he wouldn't part with the land.
My dad loves the land, therefore, he'll never admit that his dream will never materialize. He works eight hours at the auto dealer and then drives the thirty miles from town out to our farm. It isn't unusual for him to work until after dark on the farm, and I'm expected to do my share of the work too. As an only child, my share of the work is more than most ten year old boys often do. Hey, I'm not saying that my dad isn't a good father, he's just very demanding when it comes to work.
By the time I was ten, I could drive the tractor and do as much work as boys four or five years older than myself. I likely would have been a sunup to sundown farmer had my mom not insisted that I have play time. Play time for me meant that in the summer I didn't have to work in the afternoons.
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 I read everything I could get my hands on. Mom would often drive me to the library in town, so 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 always seemed to talk to me ... they whispered secret messages in my ears. These secrets were actually my own private thoughts ... the winds just repeated 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 and athletic. Therefore, I was readily accepted by all the kids in school, jocks and bookworms alike. 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 his real name was John Russell, Jr.. Justin's dad was the only dentist in town and his mom was a nurse. J.R.'s parents were also farmers, however, their farm was 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 spent time with my two buddies, my summers were less than exciting. I didn't mind the farm work, but I also knew that farming was not my occupational ambition. My dad never really told me he appreciated how hard I worked... that just wasn't his nature. I knew he appreciated my work with just his simple pat on my 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 can afford to pay someone else to do the work he does."
I had just finished cutting the last of the alfalfa for hay and was running past the time that Mom insisted my workday end. 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, Uncle Bob and 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, and they never came midweek. Uncle Bob was my mom's younger brother. Uncle Bob was one of my favorite uncles, I guess because he was younger and would often spend time playing with me. However, I thought Aunt Barbara was a real pain in the ass. Even my Dad said so.
At least, this might give me a chance to sneak into the house without being seen. But this wasn't very likely, since my mom would've already noticed 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 more than likely be in the den with Aunt Barbara. "Tyler, get in here," I heard Mom call as I was sneaking down the hall.
Damn, I was caught. Not that Mom would physically punish me, but she would 'lecture' me forever. "Bathroom, Mom, bathroom," I said stalling for time, although I had just peed behind the barn.
"Okay, then wash up and eat," Mom said. I thought maybe she didn't realize the time until I heard, "You know 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.
"Nothing, actually," Tanner said. "I don't really care about seeing some dumb farm."
"Don't be so damn pissy." I sharply replied. "Mom said to show you around, so that's what I'm offering." Immediately, Tanner's head dropped and he looked like a whipped puppy.
Right away I 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 just don't belong here or anywhere," Tanner said with tears in his eyes.
"What do you mean?" I asked as I took his arm and led him toward the barn. Something told me that this probably had something to do with Aunt Barbara.
"It's nothing," Tanner said, dropping his head lower.
"Okay, if you don't want to talk," I said. "But if it has anything to do with Aunt Barbara, I'm sure I'll 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 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, she doesn't like anyone."
"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?"
"He's beautiful," Tanner said. "But I've never ridden a horse before."
"Come on, I'll saddle him and you can ride," I offered.
"I'm afraid," Tanner admitted.
"He'll ride double, 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 in the pasture.
"They're ours, but this is just a small farm compared to most around here," I said.
"You're lucky 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 he and Bo quickly became good friends. Soon, he was riding him alone and 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. Only when our thirst took over did we go in for a cold drink. Mom, of course, had freshly baked cookies for us. After we'd 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 any of the games."
"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's awake."
"This isn't Aunt Barbara's house, besides, I smell breakfast and that means Mom's already up and cooking."
While Tanner went to the bathroom to pee and wash up for breakfast, I quickly went to Mom and said, "Mom, Aunt Barbara's mean to him. Please, can't he live with us?"
"Son, it's just 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 is," 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, 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 actually came to ask if he could stay with you while we're gone," Aunt Barbara said with obvious relief.
"Tanner is welcome to stay as long as he wants," Mom said.
"I really wasn't expecting him to come live with Bob and me," Aunt Barbara said. "But the only other relative is my Uncle Walter, and we can't let him go there because Uncle Walter's 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's always welcome here," Mom said, now realizing that Aunt Barbara only wanted Tanner's trust.
I've never seen anyone as happy as Tanner was 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. "I just wish I could stay here forever."
"Don't think about it, just enjoy your time here," Mom said as she hugged Tanner.
Having Tanner around was like having a brother. I think he felt the same about me. Justin and J.R. accepted him, and he quickly became one of us. But all too soon, the time for him to go back to Aunt Barbara drew near. Then the last week of having Tanner arrived. After breakfast one morning, 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's," Mom said.
"You mean I get to stay here?" Tanner said with delight.
"Well, not exactly," Mom said. "But I did talk to your Uncle Bob, and he's 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. "So she's not about to let him live here. But Bob told her that either Tanner stays 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 just can't be. Isn't going to your Uncle Walter better than living with Barbara?"
"Yeah, I guess," Tanner admitted.
"You'll have a little more time with us." Mom explained, "while your Uncle Walter gets moved into the new house and gets everything ready for you. So you get to stay here until school starts back."
"Wow, cool," we both exclaimed. We then rushed out to do our daily work assignments. I'd 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 soon and I'd still be in Nebraska.
All too 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 of us said much on the long drive to take Tanner to Denver for his flight to Houston. We both 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 whispered in the phone to me. "But he's nice too. They even sleep together," Tanner giggled.
"What do you suppose they do?" I wanted to know.
"I don't know, but when I got up to get something to drink, I heard sounds in their bedroom," Tanner said.
"What kind of sounds?"
"Sex sounds," Tanner laughed.
Tanner and I called each other often. But as time passed, the calls became more infrequent. Eventually, even those calls completely stopped.